Hands On Skin – Chris Sylla


Teaching and performing African music and dance since 2002. Based in Brighton when in England and Sanyang when in Gambia. She has worked in schools and with community groups, clubs, the corporate world, festivals and camps; one-to-one and with large groups. Everyone has the capacity to learn or enjoy what she can bring and workshops and events can be aimed at a variety of levels of understanding or ability.

"I trade in drums, balafons, bolons, gongos and other musical instruments plus goatskins. Although not a registered 'fair trade' company I try to behave as ethically as possible with the craftspeople I trade with and pay a ‘fair’ price for quality work. I have links with a number of Guinean craftsmen working in The Gambia making drums & percussion, some of who I've worked with for over 10 years now, also trade links in Cassamance & Guinea. Djembes, drum bags (or other cases - gongo, balafon etc..), or bass sets can be made to spec if that's what you need. With the musicians of Toumaranke Percussion I'm developing a range of recycled jewellery suitable for drummers. http://www.candora.biz/home/4575016171 If I haven't got what you want, I can probably find it for you. "


About Chris Sylla

Chris was born in Stoke-On-Trent and although she has always loved singing (and had a brief and disastrous relationship with the violin in childhood) she came to music later in life. Having worked at the WOMAD world music festival for years and seen English people playing African drums she finally went to a class with a friend and was hooked.

She took her first trip out to the Gambia to work with Masta Abdoulai Keita (aka Masta Cannon) in 2001 and has since been back to West Africa at least once a year. In Gambia she initially worked extensively with Masta Abdoulai Keita but has had other teachers in djembe, balafon, dance, bolon, gongo and singing; largely Guineans but Gambians & Sierra Leonians also. She was a student of Sekou Soumah, a griot balafonist from Guinea, from 2004 to 2012. When in Gambia she mostly plays with the group Toumaranke Percussion led by Moussa Sylla, http://ballamoussa152.wix.com/toumaranke-# but plays & dances with other troupes as well. She is mostly based in England but spends a fair bit of time in West Africa. This includes hosting a couple of workshops a year in Gambia, one with Toumaranke and one with Nansady Keita. As well as Gambia she has travelled and studied in Guinea & Senegal. She spent a season studying with the group Wassolo, Morley Toures' troupe of Guineans, based in Abene. She retains contact with some of them, although they no longer exist in the same lineup and the main solost is now working in Dakkar. She is currently developing her links with artistes in Guinea, both musicians & craftsmen.


As well as formally learning djembe and bass from Masta, Chris learned dance informally from a variety of sources with artistes in the Gambia. She has also studied gongo & bolon. She played djembe as a ‘guest’ member of the troupe African Ballet for 4 months in 2003, and played & danced with the Guinean group Bafila for a couple of seasons, also in a variety of small ensembles in restaurants and bars. She's played Abene festival with Wassolo & many weddings, naming ceremonies & local parties in both Gambia & Senegal with some of her teachers and friends there. She now works closely with Toumaranke Percussion, playing, practising and running workshops in African musc.

In England Chris teaches regular drum and dance classes and workshops and performs in Brighton and elsewhere. She often works with Brighton's 'Cultures Club' delivering music & total theatre workshops to local schools & community groups & has extensive experience of working percussively with special needs groups. She organises workshops in Lewes with djembefolas resdent here, such as Buccar Ndow and Nansady Keita. She has been working with Nyodema http://nyodema.wordpress.com, a Bognor based charitable organisation, for some yeasr now and runs workshops for their events as well as helping out with various school projects in Gambia. http://www.facebook.com/groups/nyodema/ Her group, the Nyodema Drummers, based in Bognor and affiliated to Nyodema, performs at various community events in that area. She plays with the group Muso Bango, led by Alison Surrigde from house of Rhythm, when she's in this country. She is, alongside Moussa Sylla, in the process of developing some collaborative work between the musicians of Toumaranke Percussion & the Nyodema drummers & choir.


Chris is happy to give details and info re. teachers, guides, where to buy instruments, places to stay etc... in Gambia, Guinea or Cassamance. Phone or email for information.