In memory of
Master Drummer Gbanworo Keita,
of Les Ballets Africains, Guinea West Africa

"A dancer's eyes ignite my spirit,
a drummer's hands caress my soul"

January 1, 2002

I've never had the experience of a teacher passing before and I learned this one was gone yesterday afternoon. I spent 3 of the most intense, exciting and beautiful weeks of my life with Gbanworo as one of my two djembe teachers in Nongo, Guinea, West Africa, last February. Connections were made deeply between all those involved during this short blip of time.

A beautiful man who touched my heart in so many ways, Gbanworo was immediately familiar to me when we met because he reminded me of Babatunde Olatunji. He would arrive daily on his green moped (we could hear his arrival in the distance) full of life, bearing his djembe (or sometimes two) and sporting a grin like nobody's business.

As I sat in class with him and a handful of other students I experienced this master drummer's expertise, knowledge and open heart. A kind and patient man with no pretense, he shared his knowledge openly and generously with us. His bright spirit encouraged our individual voices to come forth and kept the learning light. His maturity as an artist was evident in the subtleties of his technique and the sweetness of his drum song.

On one of these days he offered to me the sweetest little djembe I've ever laid eyes on. This drum he said was good for a woman and particularly good for me. I hadn't planned to bring back another djembe but knew in an instant that this one was meant to be with me and would connect me to the wonderful experience at hand from the farway place of home where I sit and write these words. I am certain that drum has helped to keep me in the light and I think of Gbanworo and my stay there every time I touch it.

The lessons of love and loss are seldom easy. I was looking forward to our paths crossing again in person and to continue my studies with him in 2003. His gift sits waiting to be sent with the rest of my Guinea care package. I wonder what to do with it now?

photo by Marc Blaustein

My love & prayers for a safe passage for this most beautiful soul,

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