On Friday, Sept. 20, Bolokada Conde, master djembe drummer, shared his passion with the entire KO community through music, song, and dance at the annual all-school Goodman Banks assembly.
Bolokada was born in Kissidougou, Guinea and was recognized as a djembe prodigy at a young age. “I started playing long, long time ago,” said Bolokada. “My mom told me I was two years old.” After becoming lead soloist of Les Percussions de Guinée, his country awarded him the prestigious title of Minister of Culture. Since 2004, Bolokada has traveled the world, sharing his love of drumming and music, visiting more than 70 countries.
Bolokada especially enjoys visiting schools and working with young students when he travels. “I like giving my culture because it’s very important for everybody to build good relationships and make people smile and happy,” said Bolokada. “That’s what I am happy to share.”
Creative arts teacher Wayne Pierce has had the responsibility of choosing the Goodman Banks artist for the past five years. “The process to get Bolokada to KO started a year ago when the woman who acts as his host sent around information about bringing him to schools,” said Dr. Pierce. Bolokada stands out from previous Goodman Banks artists because of his unique portfolio as a musician, storyteller, and cultural ambassador. “Someone who comes from another continent really shows us a different way of life,” said Dr. Pierce.
In the week leading up to Friday’s assembly, Bolokada worked with the seventh-grade and eighth-grade choir, the sixth-graders, the Upper School concert choir, and the Upper School jazz band. With the all school assembly to conclude the week, Bolokada worked with every single student at Kingswood Oxford.
The assembly began at 9:00 a.m. with a slideshow of pictures from Bolokada’s village in Guinea. Students were introduced to Ashley Jones, a friend of Bolokada’s and a teacher of traditional West African dance. Dancers left with Ms. Jones while Bolokada treated the audience to a fast paced and lively drum solo.
Bolokada invited students on stage to play the 35 djembe drums and taught them a song that included not only the drum beat but also lyrical music. Juniors Issy Rome and Ethan Raisner described this as an exhilarating and exciting experience. The audience joined in clapping along to the beat.
Ms. Jones and the dancers returned to join the drummers adorned in traditional West African head wraps and skirts. They performed a dance led by Ms. Jones and featuring African dance moves. Junior Sadie Margolis was one of the students that joined Ms. Jones on stage. “It was really cool to try a new form of dance from a different country,” said Sadie.
An especially exciting part of the assembly was when all of the teachers were invited on stage to play with Bolokada. Some faculty and staff sat down at the drums and grabbed a pair of drumsticks, while others joined Ms. Jones to dance at center stage. By the end of their performance, the entire student body was on their feet. History teacher Peter Jones was one of the teachers to join in on the fun. “There is a lot of positive energy and people having fun,” said Mr. Jones. “If his goal was to spread joy, he achieved it.”
The assembly concluded with an opportunity to ask Bolokada questions; students inquired about his childhood, his traditional African apparel, and his incredible djembe skill. Overall, students agreed it was a particularly spirited and energy-filled assembly.
student body was on their feet. History teacher Peter Jones was one of the teachers to join in on the fun. “There is a lot of positive energy and people having fun,” said Mr. Jones, “if his goal was to spread joy he achieved it.”
The assembly concluded with an opportunity to ask Bolokada questions, in which students inquired about his childhood, his traditional African apparel, and his incredible djembe skill. Overall, students agreed it was a particularly spirited and energy filled assembly.