I feel that as a singer, I’ve become complacent to the fact that lyrics hold meaning and can invoke feelings in others. Seeing the master Mamady Keita play exuberant solos reminded me of the fact that music in its very essence is a soulful experience and should be played as such.
But while the lyrical nature of the djembe was impactful, another thing that really stood out for me was the effortless narration through music and dance. Music and dance are not strangers to each other. Where there is dance, there is music. And music somehow moves you to dance. However, there is always a sense of forced feeling that makes it seem like music and dance do not go hand in hand. I am an ardent admirer of musical theatre. And while the dance numbers and huge ensemble displays are very masterful and tastefully pulled off, this was the first time I’ve seen such a natural translation of the idea that music and dance belong together. The feeling of joy so pure that there is no other way to express it but through dance and that really struck me. Seeing the women sing and dance in unison was such a delightful experience, but more than that, through lessons in understanding West African music, the stories really do make me think that this is another interpretation of the musical theatre tradition that exists all around that world.Finally, what struck me was Mamady Keita’s approach to music. While I am a little sceptical about his hands being washed in a certain herb that prevents strain, I choose to interpret it as a passion for music that runs so deep that one would never tire of continuing in the pursuit of knowledge, and the drive to excel and master the instrument. Another aspect of this is Mamady Keita’s showmanship. As a singer, I’ve been told on many occasions to “Be a performer” and I’ve never fully understood what it meant to be a performer as opposed to just a musician. Mamady Keita really embodies the spirit of a performer, entertaining the crowds with masterful technique and display of showmanship. I truly admire him for his skills, both as a musician as well as a performer.Michelle Naidu, Singer and student at NMIMS School Of Performing Arts, Mumbai