Master drummer comes to Carbondale

By Gus Bode

Malinke rhythms and the djembe drum are unfamiliar terms for most Americans, but Moussa Bolokada Conde says they are his lifeblood.

Conde, a master drummer, was welcomed to Carbondale with a group playing the drums to celebrate his arrival Friday. Conde, originally from Guinea, made the trip to Carbondale from his current home in Champaign, where he teaches at the University of Illinois.

‘In West Africa, so many different events and so many parts of life have drums and songs as part of it, so it was very appropriate to welcome somebody with drums,’ said Larry Millard, a member of Southern Illinois West African Drum Ensemble and a major force in getting Conde to visit Carbondale.


He said the group wanted to show Conde honor because he will be giving so much to the community.

Conde’s recognition as one of the best djembe (hand drum) players has continued to grow from a small village in West Africa to recognition worldwide, Millard said.

‘Bolokada Conde’s abilities were recognized, and his name spread from his little village to larger cities and he was recruited to join the Les Percussion Du Guinee,’ Millard said.

Les Percussion du Guinea is the country’s national touring band and they performed all over the world, he said. Conde became the lead player in the group for many years.

‘Not only did he become a master by learning everything in his own culture about drums and mastering them, but his virtuosity brought him to an international stage,’ Millard said.

‘For his instrument there is no one better,’ said Eric Hendrickson, a graduate student from Woodriver in music performance.

He said Conde’s playing was phenomenal and that he played with an enjoyable style.


‘It is amazing he ended up here of all places,’ said Jim Beers, a senior from Chester studying music performance.

Conde said he has been playing drums since he was learning how to speak.

‘I played on my mother’s back as a baby,’ Conde said.

He said he loves the joy playing drums brings him, and he enjoys teaching his craft to as many people as possible.

Conde is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Varsity Center of the Arts and has visited local schools to teach children about his craft.

‘We did a program for the kids at Unity Point school and Bolokada played the drums, got the kids to sing and dance and he told them a little bit about the drum, himself and the culture,’ Millard said.

He said it was an educational as well as a cultural experience to lift people up and to make them feel good. It was also a chance to bring people together.

‘The important thing is we are going to different schools and bringing this type of experience to the kids as well as having the performance, the whole week of activities is part of enriching the community,’ he said.

Chris McGregor can be reached at 536-3311 ext.275 or [email protected]