An electrifying performer with a keen sense of musicality, West African percussionist Mangue Sylla is a musical force to be reckoned with. Originally from Guinea and now based in New York City, Mangue is well versed in both traditional rhythms as well as contemporary musical styles, and has mastered an array of traditional African instruments. His 2007 debut album, Kon Koura, showcases a traditional West African percussion ensemble performing both folkloric songs and Mangue’s original compositions. His latest project, NOLLER/SYLLA - a collaboration with jazz drummer Jeremy Noller, brings together traditional West African rhythms and contemporary jazz to create an exciting and accessible mix of pulsing grooves and soaring melodies. Their self-titled EP was released in March 2019 by Outside in Music.
Born in Conakry, Guinea, Mangue began studying music at the age of 7. Focusing initially on the sangban, his early teachers were among the foremost masters of Guinea’s tremendous drumming legacy. With Moussa Bayo and Kanda Kante, Mangue learned the roots of his musical culture, studying the traditional-style drumming that has been passed down for generations in Guinea’s villages. Then with Lancei Kante and Noumody Keita of the famed group Percussions De Guinée, Mangue learned the contemporary or “ballet-style” drumming that features the three drum dundun set originated by Kante.
In 1993 while performing at a ceremony, Mangue was noticed by prominent choreographer Kemoko Sano. Sano’s group, Les Merveilles de Guinée, had recently established itself as one of the top ensembles in the country. Upon hearing Mangue once, with no further audition, Sano invited him to join. Mangue toured throughout Africa with Merveilles and remained a member until 1998 when he left Guinea for New York City.
Since his arrival in the U.S., Mangue Sylla has become one of the most in-demand teachers and performers of West African drumming. Playing primarily sangban, dundun, and djembe, he has performed with Les Ballets Africains, Wula Drum and Dance NYC, Youssouf Koumbassa, Mouminatou Camara, Maguette Camara, M’Bemba Bangoura, and many others. He is a regular teaching artist at many of the countries most popular drum and dance camps, including: Camp Fareta, the Wula Drum and Dance Retreat, the Florida African Dance Festival, KanKouran’s National Conference, and the Lahydi Dance and Drum Festival. Since 2003, Mangue has served as musical director for Drum Cafe NY, a global leader in team building and corporate events. As the company’s lead drummer and arranger, as well as one of it’s primary teaching artists, Mangue has travelled throughout North and Central America bringing his boundless energy to Drum Cafe’s workshops. In addition to his busy schedule of performing and teaching, Mangue serves on the accompanist staff at both The Ailey Extension and Barnard College.