The staff and students were enthralled with the lively, colorful, entertaining and educational performance of all the troupe members. Christina Lake, Elementary School, B.C.


Primary, middle and secondary level



Welcome! Bienvenue!

Dear Teachers and students,

This study guide is intended to help you prepare for our visit.You will get the most from your experience if you review and discuss this material in class and participate during the performance:

  • LISTEN to the rhythms and see how the musicians weave them together.
  • THINK about how the dancers and drummers work together and communicate with each other and the audience using the rhythm as a guide.
  • REFLECT on what you have learned about African dance and drumming.


Remain attentive during the performance

A performance is a “live” space—you can hear the performers easily but they can also hear you. Because even the smallest sounds like rustling papers and whispering can be heard throughout the room, you should remain quiet, attentive and respectful. It’s best to remain focused, so that the performers and the audience can enjoy the performance without distractions.

Show Appreciation

Applause is the best way to show your enthusiasm and appreciation. When the applause is strong, this appreciation will be felt on stage. The performers will know that the audience is attentive, which enhances the performance on stage.

Participate by responding to the action

Sometimes during a performance, you may respond by laughing, crying, or hooting. By all means, feel free to do so! By encouraging the dancers, they will respond with more energy. This is a very important aspect of an African drum and dance performance.

Concentrate to help the performers

Performers use concentration to focus their energy while on stage. If the audience watches intently, the performers feel supported and are able to do their best work. They can feel that you are with them!

About Malicounda Dance Company

Malicounda Dance Company performs music and dance from West Africa in Canada and the United States. Our program will build student awareness of a different cultural context. This will help them understand the differences and similarities that we all have as people.

Our goal is to let the people discover another culture through movement, singing, drumming and languages!

Some previous recommendations:

  • During the performance, energy electrified the room. Queen’s Charlotte Island, Art Council.
  • It was perhaps the most memorable guest concert last year. The performance was very interactive. Louise successfully engaged the children (all 280 of them) in a few dances. Smither’s elementary school, Anne Marie Findlay

About the performance

Drum and dance have been an important part of West African society for many thousands of years. Music and dance play an important role in major life events: birth, rites of passage, harvest, weddings, war, funerals, praying for rain, and honoring the ancestors. Every dance has its own rhythm and songs.
“Dancing is an expression of a physical, psychological and spiritual state of being that enables people to give meaning and context to their greatest joys, hopes, frustrations, fears or sorrows. This expression contributes to a sense of wholeness. Diversity is the key to African dance, which can be as spontaneous as moving to the beat of an intoxicating highlife rhythm, or may involve an elaborate rite of passage performed for centuries in celebration of the community (Tracy D. Snipe). In West Africa , dancing and music is part of everyday life.”

Description of the performance

The performance will include live drumming. Some aspects of the performance are interactive; at this point, we will invite students to join us.

  •  Time : 60 minutes
  • Songs from Ghana, West Africa : Interactive clapping with students to help them learn rhythm.
  • Dance pieces:
  • Aconcone : Aconcone is a fertility dance originally from the Joola people from Senegal and Gambia.
  • Lingen: Lingen is a bird dance from Gambia.
  • Yankadi : Yankadi is a courting dance performed by adolescent boys and girls of the Susu people of Guinea .
  • Drum pieces : We will introduce the various instruments and invite students to try them after the performance.

We will include a geographical background and historical context of each dance. During and after the performance we will lead the students in some simple dance movements and get them moving their bodies and expressing themselves.

Here are some suggestions to help the students better understand and enjoy our performance.

(Elementary, Middle and Secondary schools)

  • Review new vocabulary that relates to the performance.
    (These words are translations of various African dialects—so the spelling is somewhat fluid.)
  • Musical instruments used in the performance:
    • Kutiro-ceruba : drum from Gambia , made from goat skin and played with a stick.
    • Kalimba: Zimbabwe thumb piano made with a wood sound board and metal keys, played inside a gourd(dezzee) for sound resonation. Related to the m’bira.
    • Hosho : Dried gourd hollowed and filled with hota seeds, similar to maracas.
    • Djembe: (More information below)
    • Dunduns: Base drums made with cow skin
    • Griot: an oral historian and musician.
    • Lappa : the skirt worn by the female dancers.
  • Review a map of Africa noting the countries of West Africa , particularly Mali , Senegal , Gambia , and Guinea .
  • Go to the library to look for books and articles about West African countries and their cultures.
  • Funga a la fia: Welcoming song from Nigeria .


Musical activities to do with students:

Clapping and stepping in time, singing (funga), make a parade with musical instruments.( drums, bells, shakers, and percussion instruments).

Books that are well received for the elementary level:

  • Retold by Eric A. Kimmel, Anansi and the talking Melon, 1994, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
  • Berna Aardema, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, 1981, Scholastic Inc.
  • Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert, Head, Body, Legs, 2002, Henry Holt and Company, LLC
  • Giles Andreae, Guy Parker-Rees, Giraffes Can’t Dance, 1999, Scholastic Inc.
  • Pete Seegerès Story song, Abiyoyo, 1986, Aladdin Paperbacks
  • Maya Angelou, Kofi and His Magic, 1996, Crow Publishers
  • Ifeoma Onyefulu, A Is For Africa , 1993, Lester Publishing Limited
  • Jeanette Winter, My Baby, 2001, Douglas @Mcintyre Ltd
General Discussion and Activities
(Middle and Secondary school).

Attending a performance is an excellent way to develop discussions and exercise your own imagination.
Here are some activities:

  • Write a Review
    Express an opinion about the performance and make sure you explain your opinion. Include descriptions so that the reader can see the performance with you.
  •  Create a Poster or Poem
    Create a poster or poem for Malicounda Dance Company, using some of the strongest visual images that you remember from the performance or highlighting one of your favorite parts. Since this is a poster or poem, part of the challenge is to communicate information about who, what, when, why and where. Think of it as a visual essay.
  •  Create a Dance
    Create a dance for an accomplishment in your life. What music would you use? What types of movements would the dance include? What kind of costumes would you use? Would you use any props?

 (Elementary and Middle and Secondary schools)

  • Look for information on West African music and dance on the Internet, using keywords “ or drumming + country name”. Since the M’bira (similar to the Kalimba) and the Marimba (similar to the Balaphone) instruments come from that area.
  • Many of the movements in West African dance represent aspects of daily life or the natural world. What do you think is being presented in the dances shown in these photos?

Musical Instruments

The students will see the following musical instruments in the performance:

Djembe drumsDjembe : A drum originally from Mali that has since migrated throughout West Africa . Djembe drums have an hourglass shaped body usually made from the wood of the Dumbe tree. The head of the drum is made with goatskin, which is fastened to a wooden body with rope. The rope is pulled and woven around the drum to tighten the skin and raise the tone of the drum.

Dundun  : The dundun is the foundation of the rhythm and is originally from Mali , West Africa . The dundun is a cylinder usually made from the wood of the Dumbe tree. Both ends of the drum are covered with cow skin. Ropes are used to fasten the skins to the body of the drum. Dunduns come in different sizes and produce different tones based on its size. The dundun is usually played with sticks. A bell can also be attached to drum so the player can combine the sound of the dundun and the bell while playing a rhythm. The dundun is an older instrument than the Djembe.

M’bira : M’biras are related to the Kalimba which is a type of thumb piano used in West Africa . The M’bira is the primary traditional instrument of the Zezuru tribes of the Shona people of what is now Zimbabwe , and has been played for over 1,000 years at religious rituals, royal courts, and social occasions. It consists of 22 to 28 metal keys mounted on a hardwood soundboard and is usually placed inside a large gourd resonator (deze). The keys are played with the two thumbs plucking down and the right forefinger plucking up.

Balafone : In West Africa the balafone is played by the griots. The songs they sing tell the history of their people. The instrument is made with wood slats over gourds.
Shakere : A hollow gourd with beads or other percussive objects on the outside. The shakere originated with the Yoruba people of Nigeria , but is often used throughout West Africa .


Location : Western Africa , sub-suharan area
Climate: subtropical to arid.

Terrain: mostly flat to rolling northern plains covered by sand; savanna in south, rugged hills in northeast

Malians express great pride in their ancestry. Mali is the cultural heir to the succession of ancient African empires-- Ghana , Malinke, and Songhai --that occupied the West African savannah. These empires controlled Saharan trade and were in touch with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern centers of civilization.

The Malinke Kingdom of Mali had its origins on the upper Niger River in the 11th century. Expanding rapidly in the 13th century under the leadership of Soundiata Keita, it reached its height about 1325, when it conquered Timbuktu and Gao. Thereafter, the kingdom began to decline, and by the 15th century, it controlled only a small fraction of its former domain. However, during this period is when the music culture rapidly developed and expanded.

Today, about 10% of Mali ’s population is nomadic and some 80% of the labor force is engaged in farming and fishing. Industrial activity is concentrated on processing farm commodities. Mali ’s main export is cotton. Mali ’s current government capital is Bamako


Location : it is located along the outermost edge of Wet Africa on the Atlantic coast, south of the Mauritania , West of Mali, and north of Guinea-Biassau and Guinea .
Climate: subtropical to arid.
Terrain: mostly flat to rolling northern plains covered by sand; savanna in south, rugged hills in northeast.

The Senegalese people and their government value their artistic heritage. The primary religion is Islam. Today’s government capital is Dakar .

About 70% of Senegal 's population is rural. French is the official language, a reminder of its colonial occupation, but is used regularly only by a minority. All Senegalese speak an indigenous language (there are over 15 dialects), of which Wolof has the largest usage.


Location : Western Africa , bordering the North Atlantic Ocean .
Climate: tropical; hot.
Terrain: small mountains covered with tropical trees in the coastal regions, to savanna towards the Mali border to the east.Guinea is located on the Atlantic Coast of West Africa and is bordered by Guinea-Bissau , Senegal , Mali , Côte d'Ivoire , Liberia , and Sierra Leone . The Niger , Gambia , and Senegal Rivers are among the 22 West African rivers that have their origins in Guinea .
Guinea has four main ethnic groups:

--Peuhl (Foula or Foulani), who inhabit the mountainous Fouta Djallon ;
--Malinke (or Mandingo), in the savannah and forest regions;
--Soussous in the coastal areas;
--Several small groups (Gerzé, Toma, etc.) in the forest region.
Seven national languages are used extensively; major written languages are French, Peuhl, and Arabic. The capital is Conakry .


Location : Western Africa , bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal . Almost an enclave of Senegal ; smallest country on the continent of Africa
Climate: tropical; hot.
Terrain: flood plain of the Gambia River flanked by some low hills.
Industries: processing peanuts, fish, and hides; tourism; beverages; agricultural machinery assembly, woodworking, metalworking; clothing.

A wide variety of ethnic groups live side by side in The Gambia with a minimum of inter-tribal friction, each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka tribe is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, and Serahuli. Muslims constitute over 95 percent of the population. More than 80 percent of Gambians live in rural villages, although more and more young people come to the capital in search of work and education.

The Gambia was once part of the Empire of Ghana and the Kingdom of the Songhais. The first written accounts of the region come from records of Arab traders in the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. Arab traders established the trans-Saharan trade route for slaves, gold, and ivory. In the 15th century, the Portuguese took over this trade using maritime routes. At that time, The Gambia was part of the Kingdom of Mali .
Information was found on:

Evaluation form for Students and teachers

Your feedback is important to us. Please take a few minutes to help us evaluate this vital program with both the Teachers and Students’ Evaluation Forms.

Form for Teachers

Your School

Grade Level

Your Name (optional)

How many performances has your class attended before?

Was the Study Guide provided by Malicounda Dance Company useful in preparing your students for the show? If yes, how so?

If not, please recommend improvements..

 What was your students’ reaction to the performance?

Was the performance useful or appropriate for your curriculum?

Was the Study Guide useful in terms of your curriculum?

In what ways?

Are the performing arts part of your school’s curriculum? Yes No

Which ones? Music, Dance, Theater, Other (explain)

 Form for Students (elementary level)

Did you like the performance? Yes No

What did you like the most?

Would you like to try African Dance or Drumming? Yes No

Do you take classes in any of the performing arts: Yes No

Dance, Music, Theater, Singing

Would you like to? Yes No

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Form for Students (middle and secondary level)

Your School and Grade.

Did you know anything about this performance before you came to see it? Yes No

Was the performance different from what you expected? Yes No

If so, in what way was it different?

Did you have a favorite part of the show? Yes No

Explain what these parts were and why you liked them.

Were there any parts that you didn’t like? Yes No

After seeing the performance, what can you say about the performers?

If you can’t think of anything to write, describe their skills.

What did you learn about this art form?

Do you take classes in any of the performing arts: Yes No

Dance, Music, Theater, Singing

Would you like to? Yes No

Do you practice a performing art for your own enjoyment? Which ones? Yes No

Thank you for helping us to make our performances even better!


“The artistry of the West African Dance may elude many of her young students,
but they capture its vibrant, celebratory essence.”
Dublin News

For more information Contact Us
We are available for drumming worshops and shows all over British Columbia, North Territories, Alberta and Manitoba