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  Manimou Camara   

As a child Manimou listened to his mother Yaramo Thea sing and play the traditional music of the forest region, this ignited his life long passion for music. This passion led Manimou to begin his formal study of djembe with Sekou Deco Sylla in 1990 at the age of twelve.

He poured all his energy into learning rhythm and dance and soon came to the conclusion that in his life he only wanted to create music and art. Manimou naturally "snapped it up" having always had an aptitude for music and quickly surpassed many of the young men who started their djembe apprenticeships before him. Unlike many other Conakry artists Manimou was fortunate enough to study djembe full-time while attending primary education school. He miraculously continued his scholastic studies through he 10th grade and speaks impeccable french. This formal education has given Manimou insight into western education methods which he combines with traditional teaching styles for his students in the United States and abroad.

Manimou's primary djembe education was spent with Sekou Dico Sylla, when Dico left for Canada, when Manimou was 17, Manimou continued to study with Karamoko Daman (in Mamady Keita publishing's it is spelled according to the Malike language and appears as

Manimou Camara at his sister's home with his mother Yaramo Thea                                       Photo: Kim Porter

Karamo Dama, pg 44 A Life for the Djembe by Bill Meier) and Ballet Saamato.

He continued to thirst for more and jumped at the invitation to play lead Dunduns for Kemoko Sano's Merveille de Guinee. Manimou played with the group under the tutalege of Sano and Ansoumane Bangoura and grew tremendously during this period. Due to the cost of transportation Manimou quit Merveille de Guinee after three years of strenuous commuting to commit himself full time to Ballet Saamato and conducting rhythm and dance camps for cultural tourists from Europe, Japan and the United States. This did not satiate Manimou's need to play music, and after a short time he joined a second local group, Baga Percussion.

In the last few years Manimou has played with many of Guinea's most prestigious artists and performance groups: Ballet Saamato, Merveille de Guinee (association of Merveille d'Afrique), Sekou Deco Sylla, Karamoko Daman, and Bolokada.

In 1999, he recorded the album Méthode de Djembé with Karamoko Daman, Yaka Soumah and Yves Bangoura.

In 2000-2003, he participated in several national contests, which took place at the French-Guinean Cultural Center, at Palais du Peuple and in Friguiabé and Kindia.

In 2007 Ballet Saamato, with Manimou playing lead Ballet Dunduns, took 1st place in the National Festival de Percussion et Danse and 3rd place in the 2006 National Festival de Percussion et Danse. This Festival is the most prestigious in Guinea and it is the highest honor to win 1st place in the Ballet Group section of the competition. (The festival is divided into to competing groups: ballets and percussion groups).

He has also been involved in several drumming and dance workshops with people from France, Germany, England, Scotland, Belgium, Japan, Italy and the United States. He was even invited to perform and work in Scotland although he was unable to obtain a visa.

Manimou's Great Great Grandfather was a Malinke/Mandigue from Siguiri and in his twenties he walked from Siguiri to Yogbota, Manimou village, in the N'zerekore Region. Manimou's GGGrandfather took on the Kpèlè/Guerze name Minignanga, adopted the local language, married a Kpèlè/Guerze (Guerze in french) woman and eventually decided that he was more Kpèlè/Guerze than Malinke. Therefore Manimou and his family consider themselves to be Kpèlè/Guerze despite the fact that ethnicity is passed patriarchally. Manimou would like to someday return a seek out his relatives in Siguiri.

Manimou now lives in Seattle Metropolitan area, Washington USA with his wife Jessica, daughter Rosaline and son Gnakoe. He travels regionally to share his culture in California, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana and Canada. He also teaches regular classes, performs, and teaches master dance classes in the Seattle area as well as organizing the phenomenal Camp Saamato.

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