Fode 'Lavia' Camara
Fodé Moussa 'Lavia' Camara is a master drummer, percussionist, folklorist, choreographer and more! He is also a true and genuine leader of his generation in the preservation of West African traditions and the influence of these traditions around the world.
Born into an artistic family in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa, Camara honors his family and heritage through his expression of Guinea’s musical traditions and culture.
His musical talent was discovered at the age of five, when he began his formal training with the djembe, dunun, sangban, and kenkeni orchestra. He was called a prodigy by his teachers, claimed leading roles, and attained featured-artist status in a myriad of productions.
Elder artists throughout Guinea, Senegal, and Mali regularly sought Camara’s musical contributions. Camara’s command of the djembe, dunun, sangban, kenkeni and other traditional West African percussion instruments such as the krin, bolon, and gongoma prepared him to become the musical director of the renowned Gbassikolo, an African Ballet owned by his father Djibril Morlaye Camara, and lead drummer of the company Fatouabou Percussion from 1997 to 1999.
From 1998 to 2000, Camara was musical director of the National Circus of Guinea, an international touring ensemble.
In 2000, after an international search, Camara was recruited to Senegal’s Ballet D’Afrique Noire for a 32-city tour of the United States, as lead drummer of the ballet’s widely acclaimed Mandinka Epic, a dance theater production that told the history of the Mali Empire.
In 2002, Camara began serving as musical director with distinguished Kadiatou Conté Forte, artistic director of Balafon West African Drumming and Dance.
In 2004, Camara was selected as musical director for Borenya West African Drum and Dance Company, a teaching and performance company located in Columbia, SC. Two years later he was appointed artistic director and served in this function until 2008.
In 2009, Camara started his own company, Wona Womalan West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, located in Charleston SC. Its mission is to teach West African history and culture, and to bring knowledge, compassion, and empowerment to schools and communities through performance, workshops and residencies.
In January 2016, Camara realized his goal of hosting the first annual KALOUM DJEMBE Festival in his home neighborhood of Kaloum in Conakry and also began work on his school in Conakry, Bayiby Cultural Arts Academy.
He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, Howard University, University of Maryland, University of Florida, and University of South Carolina and has worked with a large number of performance ensembles. His participation is sought for annual African dance and music conferences throughout the United States.
Camara has worked for VSA South Carolina, an organization that provides quality art experiences for children, youth, and adults with disabilities. He also worked for the South Carolina Arts Commission.
In high demand, Camara tours extensively in Africa, China, Europe, North America, South America, and Australia as an instructor, choreographer, and guest artist.
Fode 'Lavia' Camara is also building a cultural arts academy, in honor of his father Djibril Morlaye 'Bayiby' Camara, dedicated to keeping his culture, history, and traditions alive and pure. Named after his father, Bayiby Cultural Arts Academy, will become a cultural hub where local and international students can come together, study, dance, make music, and inspire each other!
There are many way to support Fode 'Lavia' Camara:
-- Purchase his CD (Currently sold out. Check back for more soon!)
-- Purchase a T-Shirt or DVD (Proceeds go to Bayiby Cultural Arts Academy)
-- You can also participate a full cultural immersion experience in Guinea with Fode. Students who study in Guinea with Fode will have the opportunity to study djembe/dunun and dance in addition to having options to study boté, krin, bolon, balafon, and kora by request. Students will also get to experience the ballet first hand by attending the rehearsals of the legendary Ballet Gbassikolo and other private and national ballets (Ballet Djoliba, Africains, Merveilles, etc). Read more about studying in Guinea here. Pay for your trip via credit card here!