by JR Valrey, The People’s Minister of Information
The legendary traditional West African dance company Diamano Coura has culturally been teaching people about dance for nearly four decades in the Bay Area. On the streets and in the dance community, Diamano Coura’s name is talked about with respect because of their talent and craftsmanship in African dance and in drumming.
On Saturday, June 17, at 8 p.m., they will be performing at the Brava Theater as a part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival. A group of the members of Diamano Coura got together to do this interview and did not want to be identified specifically, so that is why in the interview we just labeled who we were talking to as the dance company.
If you get the opportunity, this is one of those performances that you do not want to miss.
JR Valrey: What does the name of the dance company mean?
Diamano Coura: Diamano Coura means, “Those who bring the message.”
JR Valrey: How and when was Diamano Coura established in the Bay Area? What was happening at the time with the African dance community?
Diamano Coura: Diamano Coura was established in the Bay Area in the ‘80s and at that time the African dance community was growing and becoming a staple in the community.
JR Valrey: How were the founders of Diamano Coura trained?
Diamano Coura: The founders were trained in West Africa, beginning in each of their birth countries. They were trained by various master teachers throughout West Africa.
JR Valrey: What kinds of dance does Diamano Coura do?
Diamano Coura: Diamano Coura is a traditional West African dance company. Our staple repertoire are dances from all over the western Africa: Liberia, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea. We have also performed Congolese, South African, Ghanaian, Brazilian, Liturgical and Afro-pop.
JR Valrey: Can you name some traditional African dances and how do they differ from each other? I want our readers to know that all traditional African dance is not the same.
Diamano Coura: Dances vary depending on region and purpose of dances, which can vary from farming, celebrations, healing, births and marriages, to mention a few. Dancing, singing and drumming serves many purposes and can take place every day as a regular part of life.
JR Valrey: What is Diamano Coura doing at the San Francisco International Arts Festival this year? What is the theme of this performance?
Diamano Coura: We are doing a piece called Jusat to show that one of the greatest challenges facing peoples of African descent is the collective trial to maintain our culture. The key crisis in Black life is and has been the Cultural Crisis – the crisis within beliefs and values. National culture is the self-conscious, collective thought and practice through which a people creates and introduces itself to history and humanity.
JR Valrey: How essential is the drum to West African dance?
Diamano Coura: The drums are a major connection that brings African dance to life. The drums hold a connection with the dancers as they converse with one another. The details in each specific rhythm can tell its own story to the audience, listeners, dancer or singer. The drums are the rhythmic heartbeat.
JR Valrey: What drums does Diamano Coura use?
Diamano Coura: Diamano Coura uses a variety of drums from all over West Africa. to name a few, we have Djembe, Djun Djun, Sabar, Talking Drum, Log Drum (Krin).
JR Valrey: How could people interested in wanting to know more, get more information on your performances and classes? How could people find you online?
Diamano Coura: You can follow us on instagram @diamanocoura Facebook, Bopsidy; our official website is www.diamanocoura.org
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder ofBlack New World Media, is also the editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. He teaches the Community Journalism class twice a week at the San Francisco Bay View newspaper office.