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Mamady Keïta

Childhood

Mamady was born in 1950 in Balandugu, a village near the Fé River in the Wassolon region of Northeast Guinea, close to the border with Mali.

His father was a master hunter and fida tigi (master of plants and healer). Before Mamady’s birth, his mother consulted a soothsayer who correctly predicted that Mamady would be her last son and that he would grow up “to do great things, with the whole village living in the shadow of his fame.”

Mamady showed an aptitude for drumming as soon as he was old enough to crawl, descending on the pots and pans in his mother’s kitchen to beat on them. Recognizing his talent, his mother had a small djembe made for him and, at age seven, took Mamady to Karinkadjan Kondé, master drummer of Balandugu (Mamamdy’s birth village), to have him formally initiated as a djembefola. Karinkadjan educated Mamady in the traditions of his village, the history of the Mandingue, and the secrets of the djembe. One of Karinkadjan’s earliest acts was to treat Mamady’s hands with the extract of a secret plant, to protect them from the ardours of playing. Mamady states that his hands never get sore or stiff from playing djembe and attributes this to Karinkadjan’s treatment.

By the age of twelve, Mamady was an accomplished djembefola, having played at many of the festivals and ceremonies of his village. His natural gifts and ability allowed him to pull a huge sound of a djembe despite his small size. Even at this young age, his outstanding skill earned him two nicknames, Nankama (he who was born for that) and Balandugudjina (devil of Balandugu).