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Carriers of Heritage: Bunja Camara, The Djembe Drummer

My Magazine 2024/05
2 min
Bunja was born into a griot family, and he hails from Gunjur. His love for art and culture made him travel to Southern Senegal in a quest for more artistic endowment. He returned as a rare Djembe Drummer of great repute in his generation. He is a drumming tutor at Alliance Francaise - The Gambia, the founder and director of the Black and White Cultural Band and the drumming tutor at My Gambia Travels Drumming Workshop.

The Power of a Strong Desire to Stand Out

Upon completing high school, Bunja had a burning desire to explore his natural gift as a griot. He yearned to research, study and learn from the best in the field. His dream was to stand out and achieve what no one in his family had achieved. He wanted to master the fundamentals of what he did and transfer it to others.

Bunja's father played the "Serouba" drum, and his uncle (his father's brother) was a skilful player of the religious drum called "Tabulo", which is played in mosques and some religious gatherings. His grandfather was a great griot in his own time, and he plied the trade as a renowned praise singer. Bunja says, "So you can see, it is in the bloodline, though not specific to one instrument or path".

Bunja went on to learn different instruments and dances across cultures and tribes. He is the first in his family to play the Djembe; he doesn't only make a living from being a griot (drummer) but also the first in his family to be a teacher of his trade within a formal setting.

His Artistic Journey

Bunja's rites of passage from ordinary to a distinct griot first led him to Ziguinchor in Senegal, which means "a place of several fields.". Here, he learnt to play the Djembe drum and some Djembe dance moves. He also learned to play the Balafon and basic Kora skills.

He then moved on to Bignona, a Jola Community in Cassamance, where he learnt Bugarabu drumming and the cultural dance of the Jola tribe. In Kafountine, he learnt Djembe rhythms, dance, and drama. In Abene, his transformation into the great Djembe drummer took place.

Here, he met his most incredible mentor, Morley Touray. According to Bunja, Morley Touray was among the first to introduce Djembe to The Gambia and Senegal. It was under the guidance of Morley that Bunja decided to focus all his artistic energy on Djembe drumming, learning the rhythms, their origin, and their cultural significance.

His Skills with the Drum and Knowledge of the Rhythms

Aside from being a skilful Djembe drummer, Bunja is one of those few Djembe drummers in the Gambia who can make, tune and compose original rhythms on the Djembe. He knows how to play over 15 popular Djembe rhythms and can explain their origin and cultural significance. He knows the specific occasion(s) for which each beat is played. Some rhythms can be played for any event, while some rhythms' cultural significance changes with time.

Bunja Camara introduced us to over ten Djembe rhythms. You can read about them here

Create Your Own Experience!

As you explore the Smiling Coast of Africa, don't miss the opportunity to join My Gambia's drumming classes. It's a chance to create lasting memories and take home a piece of Africa's rhythmic heartbeat. Feel the pulse of The Gambia and experience its culture in a way that only the magic of drumming can provide.


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