At age 14, I lost the use of my legs from polio. As a result, I was sent away to live in my father’s ancestral village of Mancellia in the Malinke Kouroussa region of Guinea. At that time, people with disabilities were considered ghosts and hidden away. The traditional musicians and griots in the Mancellia took me into their care and undertook my education in the traditional arts. All births, deaths, troubles and celebrations had been kept living in the voices of my teachers. This they passed to me.
My music derives from the traditional rhythms of Guinea. In keeping with the West African griot traditions of my homeland the lyrics are my own compositions within which I chronicle my life’s journey. In cultures where few can read or write histories are passed by word of mouth from generation to generation. African traditional music is a living art form; it speaks of present conditions.
I have performed with West Africa’s premier music and dance ensembles, including the prestigious Les Merveilles de Guinea and the Ballet African.
In Guinea 2014 I used music and dance to bring people together to educate our community and defeat Ebola. These concerts and ceremonies were broadcast by Guinean television across the country. I traveled and spoke to other communities where there was resistance and convinced them to allow healthcare workers in.
My music brought me to America in 1998 where I founded my dance company Tokounou All Ability African Dance. In 2007 I was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, Lifetime Honors from the National Endowment for the Arts.
I currently work teaching dance/drum to children and adults with cerebral palsy in Long Island. I also run workshops with veterans in the Bronx Vet Center. I continue to perform throughout America.