Martine Niafouna and Mr Ba incredible stories

I wanted to take the opportunity to share some stories with you all. As some of you know, I have recently travelled back from Senegal where I spent the last 3 months. Going back to Casamance is always a way for me to reconnect with my home town, spend some time with my family, friends and get inspiration. I also led 2 drumming workshops and took part in a few performances.  But this trip was also the opportunity for me to find out more about the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Senegal. I knew about some of their work. But it is their micro projects of rehabilitation that caught my attention and i was honoured to be invited to visit some of the people that received ICRC support.

One of the ICRC microproject is to support victims of landmine. The Red Cross engages for the first 6 months, where they monitor every person’s progress. They work in partnership with the Association Senegalaise des Victimes de Mine (ASVM), whose commitment is longer-term. The stories behind the people are heartbreaking and touching.  But the people I met were just extraordinary. I was moved and inspired to see so much love for life. So here I am going to share 2 of many stories.

In this picture you can see Mr Ba. Mr Ba led a happy life in his village. He used to be a bike mechanics by trade. In his spare time, he was also farming in bush fields near his village called M’Pack (at the border between Senegal and Guinea Bissau). He did this to help feed his family. One day, while out farming, a landmine exploded. He was rushed to hospital and started his treatment. His family did not know what had happened to him. It took 2 days for the news to reach his wife. She was shocked.. so shocked that she fainted many times and became very weak. Within few days, she passed away. Now Ba was disabled and a widow. He had 3 children. His daughter was strong. She stayed with him at the hospital, even during revision time for her exam. Despite having lost her mum, she concentrated on her dad. She was a pillar in his recovery. While many of us would have reached rock bottom, he rised up to the challenge and was determined to not let that ruin his life. His belief in God had help him greatly, he says. With support from his children, he started a new life. And with funding from the ICRC and the ASVM,  he has now set up a new bike repair business.

I was also very touched to hear the story of Martine Niafouna. 2 years ago, she had many things going for her. She was at the end of her training in hospitality, at Club Med in a touristic beach village of Casamance (Cap Skirring). During her holidays, she decided to visit her uncle in their village called Koureng. Her uncle was building a fence around the house and needed to collect some wood from a nearby bush fields. So she went with him. A landmine bomb exploded under her feet. She lost her leg. Martine did not have any family to support her back to life. And she is a single mum with 2 young children to look after. So the partnership between the ASVM and the ICRC was so crucial in helping her starting off a new life.  She has now a small vegetable stall at the market. Slowly she is getting back her independence. Life is still tough, but she does not give up and she remains positive and hopeful for the future.

Ba and Martine have now artificial legs which make life easier for them. But they find it hard to walk around during the rainy season as the roads are usually flooded and muddy. There many more people recovering from a life changing trauma. Many more touching stories on our doorstep…Those people never give up and love life. Their stories give hope to others.

The staff at ICRC and at ASVM do not work for money or medal. They do their job because they care and believe in a better world. They too are amazing people behind these stories.

The ICRC is carrying out its humanitarian work in more than 80 countries in the world and is often the first humanitarian organisation here and there, ready to help others. This visit was really inspiring and I am more determined than ever to support the ICRC . Maybe you can help too? Find out more and donate to ICRC here.

One love

Seckou Keita

All Pictures by : Felipe Jacome Marchan

From left to right:
1) Ba and myself – 2) Myself, Martine,my friend Ben Mady and Mr Diedhiou Director of the Association Senegalaise des Victimes de Mine) -3) Ba and myselfin front of his Bike repair shop -4)Mr Diehdiou and Myself – 5) Martin and Myself in front of her vegetable stall


Mamady Keita, Grand Master of djembé, has invited Iya Sako to join him in providing a drumming course in Senegal. This is taking place in Abené, a coastal village in Casamance and also home of the famous Abené Festival. Mamady will be performing as part of the festival, alongside Iya, Seckou Keita and other artists. In addition to the drumming classes, we are offering an African dance course and an African singing course.


2 week stay: 28th December 2012 to 11th January 2013
or 3 week stay: 28th December 2012 to 18th January 2013


Most djembé/dundun students and professionals reading this will already be aware of how fantastic an opportunity this is – to learn from Mamady and see him perform. We would not be doing him justice to try and summarise his life story, artistic acheivements or explain how he has helped protect, promote and teach this art form and it’s traditions. For full information / biography see

Iya is also from the Wassolon region of Upper Guinea. He is a renowned and highly respected djembé fola across the Siguiri, Wassalon and Bamako regions of Guinea and Mali. He taught his first international students in Mali in 1999 before moving to Conakry in 2004. He was subsequently introduced to and worked with Famoudou Konate, supporting his workshops and performing with Famoudou’s group. He moved to the UK in 2007.

To be confirmed. We are in the process of selecting suitable teachers to ensure that the dance and singing courses are led by artists/teachers in keeping with the level of expertise as the other teachers on this course.

Seckou is a highly respected djembé fola and kora player also from the griot Cissokho family whose prolific work includes teaching, touring worldwide and recording. Originally from Casamance, he now lives in the UK. Seckou met Mamady in 2005 and was then invited to perform and record “Mamady Keita & Sewa Kan Live @ Couleur Cafe” a CD/DVD in Belgium in 2006. Seckou will be assisting Mamady’s course.


You can book for 2 weeks: 28th December – 11th January or for 3 weeks: 28th December – 18th January
The drumming courses will be split into two levels – intermediate (group 1) and advanced (group 2).
Mamady and Iya will teach both levels. If you are unsure of what djembé level you are, please contact us. Mamady will assess and guide students once in Abené, to ensure that they are in the group they will most benefit from.
The 3rd week 11th – 18th January is with Mamady only and you will need to be an advanced djembe player.
Dundun players for each course will be provided.
There will be opportunity to record demonstrations of all djembé parts, solos etc, dunduns and variations. Video is not allowed. Any other classes that we organise can also be audio recorded.

TIMETABLE – a typical workshop day (workshops run 5 days out of 7):
Breakfast 8 – 9am
Dance 9.15 – 10.45am
Drum (Group 2 with Iya / Group 1 with Mamady) 11am – 1pm
Lunch 1 – 2pm
Singing 3 – 4pm
Drum (Group 2 with Mamady / Group 1 with Iya) 4.30 – 6.30pm
Dinner 7.30 – 8.30pm


According to the Lonely Planet Guide (
“The Casamance is one of Senegal’s most beauti­ful regions, with lush tropical landscapes, myriad waterways and the unique culture of the Diola, the largest ethnic group of the region. On the western coast, Senegal’s finest beaches spread in a wide strip of white sand from Cap Skiring north towards the ‘hip’ villages of Kafountine and Abéné, only broken by a mangrove-lined delta where the Casamance River spills into the Atlantic.” We couldn’t have put it better!

Abené has become known as “the drumming village.” On most days, you’ll hear the sound of drums from any of Abené’s resident groups or from overseas students attending a workshop. Aside from the music and dance, you’ll also enjoy just being in lovely Abené where the people are warm and welcoming. There are places to visit such as craft markets, Abené’s giant cotton silk tree and Kafountine, a larger village 7km away. In the evenings, some bars in Abené have live traditional music or DJ’s playing Reggae etc. The famous annual Abené Festival (usually 26th December to 2nd January) celebrates the music and dance of many different ethnic groups in Senegal and neighbouring countries.

Run by Kumba Cissokho, Les Belle Étoiles is conveniently located between the beach and the village centre. The accommodation consists of round buildings with two rooms. Each room has twin beds with an ensuite toilet and shower (unheated). At the front is a large bar / eating area. On most evenings you will be able to relax around the campfire.


Prices include:
Transport from Banjul arriving on 28th December and returning on 11th or 18th January.
Full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) accommodation in shared twin rooms at Les Belle Étoiles.
Ticket to the Abené Festival 28th December – 2nd January.

Two drum classes a day – drum with Mamady and drum with Iya 40hrs £900
One drum class a day – drum with Mamady or drum with Iya 20hrs £750
One dance class, one singing class a day 25hrs £770
One drum class (Mamady or Iya), one dance class and one singing class a day 45hrs £925
Accommodation only £500
Single room supplement (if you do not want to share a twin room) £40

3 weeks: 28th December – 18th January
Two drum classes a day – drum with Mamady and drum with Iya for first two weeks. In week 3, both drum classes a day are with Mamady* 60hrs £1250
One drum class a day – drum with Mamady* or drum with Iya 30hrs £850
One dance class, one singing class a day 37.5hrs £870
One drum class (Mamady* or Iya), one dance class and one singing class a day 67.5hrs £1290
Accommodation only £675
Single room supplement (if you do not want to share a twin room) £60

You can also book additional lessons including balafon / dundun / kora / dance / singing.
These will be at £8 – £15 per hour which you can pay for in Abené.

* The 3rd week 11th – 18th January is with Mamady only and you will need to be an advanced player.

For a pdf with more information click on this link: Mamady Iya Drum Camp Senegal 2012 2013

TO BOOK YOUR PLACE download a booking form here:

The booking form will have details of EARLY BIRD DISCOUNTS.
To be eligible for the early bird price you will need to pay a non-refundable deposit of £250 by 30th April 2012.
All other deposits will need to be paid by 30th June 2012
Full payment must be received by 30th November 2012.
If you need to pay by instalments, please contact Coral.

If you have any question please contact:
Coral Dunwell 07762 402811
or Justine Hart 07773 047684

This course has been organised by Drum Whisperer and Hartbeats on behalf of Mamady Keita

Seckou New Pictures In Senegal

Ace photographer Josh Pulman travelled to Sengal with Seckou Keita gathering material for the new musical chapter.
Here are a few peeks. Josh is at:

New Seckou Video from Senegal

Seckou released a video for Senegalese TV which was played on all the 5 main channels over the election weekend and continues to pick up plenty of interest.
The lyric of Rewmi appeals for peace and unity to tackle together the problems facing us all and demands we take responsibility as individuals, families, communities, governments and corporations. We may think we are clean but we should think again and wash our hands.

Seckou’s talk at TED Geneva

TEDxRC2 – click on link

For anyone who did’t catch the live conference, here is another chance.

On Sunday 27 November, around 500 guests took part in a very special TEDx experience at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva. Each of the speakers will shared their unique thoughts and insights into what can be done to multiply the power of humanity.