Here is a great article about Abou Sylla, who will return in 2018 to the Wula Retreat Faculty.
"The mallets fall like the fingers of a master pianist, bouncing off the wooden keys in a flurry of motion. It looks relaxed , but it’s tightly controlled. Bright, punchy notes spring from the keys at a moderate tempo.
Then Abou Sylla speeds up. The Greenfield-based musician travels up and down the balafon, a type of West African xylophone. He fills the moments between beats with rapid-fire riffs and playful themes — a complex, danceable étude.
Sylla’s mastery of the instrument comes from a life spent absorbing and playing music. Now 60, he grew up among musicians in Guinea. As a kid, he would lie between two balafons as his father and others played, soaking up their sounds. Sometimes his dad had him on his lap during the sessions.
Music held such prominence in his family that the balafon was practically “the man in the house,” Sylla said. He started playing young; after all, the instrument was “the only toy in the house.”
Several decades and thousands of miles removed from that time, he’s still playing.
Today, Sylla — who also sings, drums and plays other instruments — is sharing his lifelong love of music with people in the Monadnock Region and beyond.
He teaches weekly West African drumming classes to a group, called the Monadnock Drum Caravan, at the Peterborough Recreation Department. He leads similar courses at Plus Co., a Nashua nonprofit organization that supports people with developmental disabilities. He performs at festivals, events, schools and nursing homes and gives cultural presentations.
For Sylla, it’s not just about the music, but also about connection. “You don’t have to be black or you don’t have to be yellow or you don’t have to be white or you don’t have to be healthy or you don’t have to be sick,” he said. Each person brings “their own sense” to his music."