Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It was the Labour Day Long Weekend (or Labor if you're from the States) and I can honestly say that I spent the weekend labouring. If you don't believe that a weekend of West African Drumming and Dancing isn't a workout, no matter how fun it is, than you should really get yourself to a class so you can re-evaluate your beliefs.

Sunrise over Shawnigan on our first morning

The weekend was held at Camp Pringle on the beautiful Shawnigan Lake. The location was a bit of a highlight for me as I used to attend Camp Pringle as a camper way back in the day. Surprisingly, it hasn't changed a whole lot since I was there (although current construction will mean big changes by next year's Denbaya should we return).

The event is often touted as 'mini-Guinea' as all the instructors are originally from there. This year we had Mohamad and Marielle Duranteau, N'nato Camara, Manimou Camara, and Aboubacar Camara (who surprisingly doesn't have a webpage despite insisting that he's the life of the party) who all originally hail from Guinea but now make their homes in Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle.

Mohamed, Manimou, Aboubacar, and N'nato having a laugh

Our days were filled with dance and drum lessons until our feet blistered and our fingers cracked. Yet everyone kept coming back for more. We found rest during food breaks and during our preciously little downtime which always seemed to disappear into class time... or practice time.

Practicing djole during the down time before dinner

Saturday night was a traditional Guinean meal cooked by Mohamed. The dinner was open to the public (for a fee) followed by a Cross-Cultural Forum and then a Doundounba where all the instructors performed. We ended the night standing around the unscheduled camp fire while learning songs in Susu from Aboubacar. After all the craziness which is a Doundounba, I couldn't think of a better way to end the day.

Sunday was more of the same. Drumming, dancing, eating, drumming, dancing, crying about sore muscles. Moondance treated us all to dinner at the West Arm Pub (we were responsible for our beverages). In true Guinean style, the instructors brought a few instruments. People actually got up from their tables to come watch us. It was a great feeling to be in the middle of it.

Despite the hangovers a few most people were nursing, we were right back into the drumming and dancing on the Monday morning before breaking camp and heading back to our respective towns. I have never been so sore in my life but I can honestly say that it was completely and utterly worth it. I got to hang out with cool people from all over Western Canada and Washington State who shared my love of West African music and dance. It was a fantastic opportunity and I'm already itching for next year's Denbaya.

Djembes waiting for the next lesson

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