Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Guinea, West Africa by living, dancing, and drumming in remote villages. This trip is chock full of unique experiences, and is best suited for a seasoned traveler (although all levels of dancer are welcome!).
Both in the capital of Conakry and in the villages, you are hosted by incredible families and artists. Each day of this trip (with the exception of travel days), you will have two dance classes and one drum class taught by principal dancers and drummers of Les Ballets Africains, as well as other professional instructors. In the villages, we work with traditional dancers and drummers. These dancers and drummers represent the different ethnic groups of Guinea, including Susu and Malinke.
This trip also includes a visit to the Festival de Musiques Traditionnelles et de Contes–an incredible event that brings together artists, dancers, and musicians from Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You will be one of the few Westerners in attendance, and your life will be forever altered by experiencing the diverse montage of life and culture in the cradle of humanity.
Sarah Lee Parker Mansaré
Sarah Lee graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Wellness (Exercise Science, Public Health, Youth Studies and Nutrition) from the University of Minnesota. When Sarah Lee first discovered West African Dance in 1993, she was hooked immediately, and spent the next decade studying with dozens of well-known instructors from various parts of West Africa. In 2004, Sarah Lee’s passion for this art form took her to Senegal and then Guinea, West Africa, on a dance intensive with her primary instructor Master Dancer Youssouf Koumbassa. She has since returned to Guinea eleven more times for up to eight months at a time to dance and learn from some of the best West African dancers and instructors in the world. She now runs dance programs in Guinea with her husband Mamady Mansare. Sarah Lee hails from Seattle, Washington, where she is powerfully committed to sharing her love and knowledge of this amazing culture and building a bridge between American and Guinean cultures. She teaches weekly classes in the community, as well in the dance department at the University of Washington. A true healer in the best sense of the word, her infectious enthusiasm, playfulness and generosity of spirit, make her the perfect ambassador for the West African traditions that she shares from her heart.
Mamady “Tambou” Mansaré III is a 4th generation Master Flute player from Guinea, West Africa, and is known around the world for his extraordinary musicianship. In addition to being a world class dancer, singer, and acrobat for Les Ballets Africains, the most renowned and prestigious performance company in all of West Africa, he holds the noble position of principal flute player in this revered company. In fact, he, his father (from 1988-2004), and his grandfather (from 1958-1988) are the only people who have ever had the honor of holding this position in this acclaimed company. In Guinea, the Mansaré family is regarded as a valuable national treasure. While in Guinea, you will stay at the Mansaré family’s compound.
|1 – 3||You start off your visit in Conakry–the capital city home to 5 million Guineans. As you exit the tiny airport, you feel the warm air and see joyous, boisterous, and vibrantly clothed people everywhere you look. Is this some sort of special festival? No, it’s just Conakry! Welcome to Africa! Sarah Lee, Mamady, and a team of local artists greet you with warm hugs and whisk you off to the Mansare family compound, where your entire 25 member host team has been anxiously awaiting your arrival. You are lovingly greeted by members of your new family, your drum instructors, dance instructors, cooking team, neighbors, and neighborhood children (lots and lots of children!). You will spend the first two days in the compound, acclimatizing to the weather and time change. During these days, you will walk through the neighborhood, visiting markets, working with the tailors, having your first dance and drum classes, and orienting for the full three-week voyage into the heart of Guinea.|
|3||It’s time to travel inland! You board the bus with our artists and hosts, while the team attaches drums, pots, pans, tents and water bottles to the top of the bus. As you watch, you know you’re in for an amazing and rare experience. During the 10 hour journey, you will note the riches and diversity of this country. You’ll pass by tropical beaches, pine forests, dry grasslands and ancient hardwood forests. At the end of the day, we arrive in Faranah where we eat, check into the hotel, and head to bed.|
|4 – 7||During our three days in Faranah, the capital of Sankaran, you will be mesmerized, entertained, educated and touched deeply by more than 400 storytellers, artists, musicians, dancers, hunters, fetishers, sorcerers and mask makers from across Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). You will also visit the family of Faduba Oularé (a famous drummer), meet Mamady Kourouma (a famous dancer), see the great Niger River, and perhaps venture into Haute Niger National Park to see the Chimpanzees!|
|8 – 14||From Faranah, we’ll travel two hours to Kissidougou (or “place of refuge” in the local language Kissi). We then hop on motor taxis for the last teg to the village Dembayara, the natal village of our host family Mansare. There, you live in huts, drink well water, dance in the dirt, savor village cuisine, and connect to local tradition. You will delve into song, music, dance and joy like never before. Each day is better than the last as you unwind and soften into the community of family and hosts, learning about their lives of cultivation, fishing and hunting. In the evenings, the family shares stories–some dating back to 800 years ago.|
|15 – 16||These two days are spent in Kankan. Kankan is known for its universities, kola nuts, religious scholars, ngris-ngris (markets featuring traditional magic and medicine supplies), the Milo River, being home to one of the oldest mosques in West Africa, and–perhaps most importantly–having tons and tons of Mangos. No trip to Haute Guinea would be complete without a day here, and we are sure to connect and learn from several well-known and traditional artists during our visit.|
|16 – 19||As we enter the final week of this trip, we visit the place many people call the birthplace of all Malinke music and dance: the Hamanah Region. We will lodge in Kouroussa and visit surrounding historic villages such as Baro, Koumana, Sangbarala. These places are home to extraordinary artists such as Fodoba Keita, Famoudou Konate, Daouda Kourouma, Sékou Konaté , Nankouria Moudou Keita, Mansa Kamio and so many more. You can feel the centuries of tradition and history, and it somehow empowers and deepens your artistry. During our three days here, we work with a local Dundunba drum and dance company, observe local festivities, and take part in a giant Dundumba celebration. We also take the opportunity to tour an African gold mine–and on the way back–see the sacred Fromager or Kapok trees. These trees are 900 years old and 200 feet tall.|
|20||We leave Kouroussa and pass through Dabola, Mamou, Kindia, Coyah on our way back to Conakry.|
|21||Happy to rejoin our incredible team in Conakry, we celebrate and share all that we have learned and experienced. During our last dance and drum classes, you show what you have learned on this incredible adventure. You look forward to heading home and sharing about the far-away and oh-so-real world of Guinea, West Africa.|
“My journey to the land of Guinea was truly life altering. I am not the same person I was before this experience and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of it. The people of Guinea are like no other. Strong, gentle, joyful, inclusive, spirited, a lightness of being – all in spite of crushing poverty and a lack of infrastructure to meet the most basic needs we tend to take for granted. Music and song are tightly woven into the fabric of everyday life in Guinea, a music that grabs your soul and holds you up in good times and bad!” – Ilona Berzups