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Rhythm Griots (pronounced gree-oes) translates into English as 'rhythm storytellers,' and rhythm is the common ground shared by Massamba Diop and Tony Vacca. Their music is a living, contemporary link between the traditions of West Africa and America. They blend the fiery Wolof drumming of Senegal's famous tama drummer, Massamba Diop, with the percussion spectacle of Tony Vacca's hard-hitting fusion of Jazz, Spoken Word, and World Music.

Tony Vacca is an innovative American-born percussionist whose music incorporates giant West African xylophones, an incredible collection of over twenty Paiste gongs, hand-drums, and a unique drum set/percussion unit. The range of his work could be summarized by the fact that he has performed and/or recorded with pop icon Sting, Senegalese Afro-Pop star Baaba Maal, Jazz and World Music legend Don Cherry, and the Senegalese hip-hop troupe called Gokh-bi System.

Massamba Diop is internationally recognized as one of the all time masters of the tama drum. He is an extraordinary performer, as well as a knowledgeable and generous teacher. He is one of the original members of Baaba Maal's world famous band, and has performed with Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, and Carlos Santana.

Together their performances are a spectacular display of rhythm and a world of percussion, demonstrating the power of cross-cultural collaboration. They have created flexible, cohesive, and extraordinary presentations by virtue of their generous commitment to the music and to each other. And it shows. In performance or in hands-on workshops, they convey their expertise, their reverence of tradition and innovation, and a profound respect for their audience.

If you like contrasts, then you'll see that their collaboration incorporates and transcends Black and White, Christian and Muslim, ancient and contemporary, African and American. But most of all these two musicians are friends; you can see it, you can hear it, and you can feel it. Just like their friendship, their music is built upon mutual respect and appreciation. The result is this meeting of two mindful, soulful, world-class performers; two rhythm griots meeting on the common ground of rhythm and storytelling.

CONCERT PERFORMANCES (Tony Vacca and Massamba Diop)
Tony Vacca and Massamba Diop perform from their repertoire of songs, using a world of percussion instruments that include talking drums, balafons, drum set, and gongs. There's a lot of audience participation and usually one of the workshop groups performs one song with them. Concerts can be from 45 minutes to two hours, but are usually about one hour long.

Prices for work in schools are usually as follows:

Full Day: $1500 This provides for up to four sessions of concerts and workshops in any combination. Two additional workshops can be had if Massamba presents his own workshops in a separate space, running simultaneously with Tony's presentations.

Half Day: $1000. Half days are usually only done after a full day at the same location.

Evening community concerts for schools on the evening of full day presentations are also $1000.

Costs include sound system and all instruments necessary for workshop programs, unless the group has to fly to the location.

WORKSHOPS with Massamba Diop and Tony Vacca:

In this 'hands-on' session, Tony will apply over thirty years of experience as a drummer/composer, and over a dozen trips to West Africa, to create and teach a percussion composition. He'll use djembe drums, gongs, rattles, an orchestra of tuned bells, and a wide variety of other percussion instruments. Students will learn call-and-response phrases and chants, and then learn several signals in order to play five sections within this composition. These pieces involve combinations of rhythms that connect African, Caribbean and American traditions. This ensemble will be able to perform what they've learned for their peers in a concert setting as part of their preparation. Approximately one hour. All instruments provided.

Massamba hosts an open discussion with students and faculty about life in Senegal, and the importance of the music of the tama drum. He will demonstrate his amazing playing techniques, and discuss the cultural/religious importance and meaning of some of the many rhythms he plays. Approximately one hour.

Tony demonstrates how he creates and assembles his music and poetry. Then, through a series of activities, students collectively create a group spoken word piece, and collaborate with Tony to shape the musical accompaniment. Students are also encouraged to bring poetry they've written, and to be prepared to not only read it, but to perform it with the group. (This is usually a ninety-minute session.)

MORE? OK, Tony and Massamba often work with another masterful percussionist, Steve Leicach.
To the Vacca/Diop duo, Steve Leicach adds world class level congas, shakere, djembe, balafon and tama drum. His energy is a perfect fit, and in performance their connection is nothing short of telepathic.

Steve Leicach also adds a third set of workshops possibilities, including: Traditional West African hand drumming from beginner to advanced. Steve's special style and profound knowledge make him the perfect compliment and perfect addition to Tony and Massamba.

Fees for the trio are: $2000 for a full day, and $1500 for a half day.

Of special interest is our Senegal-America Project, bringing Senegalese and American performers together for concerts and workshops that focus on the common ground and cultural treasures, peoples, and cultures of Senegal and America. Ask for more details. Call Tony at: 413 665-1067

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