Fara Tolno was born in Guinea, West Africa. He spent his youth in the village of Kissidugu and Guinea’s capital city, Conakry. Playing djembe since the age of nine, he traveled extensively performing and teaching both drumming and dance. Fara spent nine years as the lead drummer for Les Merveilles de Guinea (The Wonders of Guinea) under the tutelage of West Africa’s most influential director and choreographer, Kemoko Sano. Fara is a keeper of the history, the music, and the dance in his culture. He holds a vision to build a school of Music, Dance and Education in his home town of Kissidugu. This school will help provide a sustainable way to ensure that the music, dance, and history of Guinea will be passed on to the next generation. Read more about this project and how to contribute here.
Fara completed his MFA at the University of Colorado. Pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in dance gave him the opportunity to not only teach and share his culture, but to study many different forms of dance. He is taking this knowledge and finding ways to relate and merge the art form of dance and music from his culture with that of the Western world. Fara is sharing this new and innovative perspective through his teaching in community and university classes, providing a one-of-a-kind opportunity and outlook on traditional West African dance, and its historic relationship to the western world.
Fara is the founder, director, and choreographer for Kissidugu, his percussion and dance theatre ensemble. He is training and performing with a variety of students, combining traditional performance styles and pieces from Guinea with his own insights and knowledge of rhythms and movement.
Fara focuses his energy locally through Project Drum, a business designed to provide rhythm-based educational and team building services to schools, organizations, teams, music educators and corporations. Rooted in the rich musical traditions of West Africa, Project Drum strives to bring people from all walks of life together for a joyful and enriching experience. Through this program, Fara works with students, trains teachers, and performs in schools, sharing West African music, dance, and culture, as well as ways to implement this music into the classroom.
Fara also provides access to the rhythms of Guinea through the Rhythm Reference Project, the most comprehensive audio and notation library ever compiled for West African Drumming. This project provides audio and notation files that cover all the parts for over 50 traditional rhythms, all recorded by Fara. Rhythm Reference provided the foundation for Djembe.Guru.
Fara has performed with many of the world’s premier musicians including Mamady Keita, Burning Spear, Neil Young, Sekouba Bambino, Otis Taylor, Joe Cocker, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita Habibe Koite, B.B. King, Oumou Sangare, and many more.
Fara’s performance style has been described as mystical as he dazzles audiences around the world. As the director of Kissidugu, he has expanded his depth of knowledge to the realm of musical arrangement and choreography. Fara has a magical way of teaching everything from the basics to the beautiful intricacies of West African percussion to Western players of all levels and ages. His energetic and compassionate teaching style make him one of the most sought after drum and dance instructors in the United States.