Off to the djembefola – Mamady Keita and TTMDA: Teachers Workshop, Monterrey / Mexico: It starts!

Day 1 & 2

My journey began with going to visit my brother in Brussels to catch up with my family and also break what would have otherwise been a 30-hour flight journey.

My itinerary: Mumbai – Munich – Brussels –Chicago – Huston – Monterrey –Huston – New York – Mumbai! PHEW, I know…

Due to a late departure from Brussels, I ended up missing my connecting flight from Chicago to Huston but was thankfully re-booked on a much better flight directly from Chicago to Monterrey later in the evening and as the Djembe Gods would have it, I was reunited with none other than Michael Taylor from Chicago and Ke from China – both also on their way to the special workshop. Serendipitous, almost!


But the adventures of Varun Venkit were not finished… As my brother aptly predicted, my baggage (my djembe and clothes) did not arrive with me. But as I decided, I would take all this in my stride and go with the flow.

My lovely host for this trip, Gustavo was waiting with his lovely and welcoming smile. I met Susto, as he is lovingly known, in Tulum along with the amazingly hospitable crew from Mexico (Drum Art) and it was no looking back. I will be staying with him through the duration of the entire trip. This and meeting the TTMDA family were the two reassuring factors to my rough yet interesting start to the workshop.


It was absolutely amazing to catch up with everyone the next morning:

Kelvin – Singapore
Jeremy – Belgium and Monterrey
Pierre – Israel
Ke – China
Dai – Japan, Tokyo
Hiroki – Japan, Fukuoka
Bill – USA, Winston Salem
Taylor – USA, Chicago

* And of course, the one and only, Mamady Keita – Guinea and Monterrey.

The reason for this workshop is important to talk about. Mamady trusts only a handful of people to take his legacy forward. What is important is to retain the spirit, the philosophy and the authenticity of the tradition of the Mandingue through the djembe. We are the flag-bearers of this cause. All of us have varied backgrounds but our love for the djembe and Mamady Keita ties us together… Many of us come from countries that have very deeply developed djembe communities and some that have no djembe community until we worked on creating it. We are crazy. We are crazy and have put security, everything-known, comfort, energy, time and money at steak to learn from the master with the hope that we will spread this in its truest form. An opportunity like this is our way of fueling our soul and spirit with the energy we need to continue transmitting and reflecting the same when we go back to our respective countries. It is important, never to forget the emphasis on constantly learning and PUSHING one’s experience because one’s spirit knows more than one’s experience. This is true for one’s djembe playing ability as well. This is where we go back to school and push our experience.

Varun in Mexico

We would have 4 hours of intense learning of rhythms and technique associated with the rhythms.

We started by paying homage to the ‘big brother’ as Mamady lovingly calls him – Famoudou Keita.

Up until now we have played:
1. Famoudou
2. Bara (the place in the centre of a village where many celebrations occur)
3. Bonya (literlly means ‘respect’)
4. Dai (this was specially lovely since Dai is present in the group with us and it is an absolute joy to see where these rhythms are inspired from)

More importantly, we would improvise individually so that baba could be assured that we have the feeling of every rhythm correctly and comfortably enough to spread it far and wide.


Personally, I am very thankful for this because I don’t have this opportunity everyday where I can push myself to the max. Through little steps, we learn from each other by listening to the dununs, to each other solo, to each others ideas & experiences and most importantly – by being 100% in the here and now, immersing ourselves in planet Djembe!

Come. Drum. Be One.