Abou Sylla is a balafonist and composer who has performed and taught in the United States and abroad for the past twenty years. He is an applicant for membership in the New Hampshire League of Craftsmen, and the Friends of the Dublin Art Colony. His home is in the lovely Mt. Monadnock Tourist Region of Southern New Hampshire.
N'Camara Abou Sylla ("N'Camara" defines Abou's heritage through his mother's name) was born into a specific family clan in Guinea, West Africa called the Djeli. The Djeli are the oral-historians, musicians and singers of the traditional "folk" cultures. Abou was surrounded by this heritage from birth (literally being layed down to sleep between the multiple balafons playing for ceremonies from night to dawn). Abou grew with the music in him. At an early age he was identified by his father as a talent on the instrument called the "balafon," the small-keyed, wooden xylophone. As a little boy, Abou was invited to perform at the ceremonies where he had previously slept between the instruments. This is how his life-long love for the balafon, the music, and the stories began. Abou's grandfathers were, and continue their heritage as builders of the fine instruments.
At the age of twenty, Abou auditioned and joined Les Ballets Africains as a balafonist. Les Ballets Africains was the nationally formed ballet company of Guinea, directed by Italo Zambo. It was here, Abou says, under the creative genius of Zambo, that he became a true master of the balafon, understanding the nuances of the ancient music and stories Zambo transformed for the world stages. Abou toured globally with Les Ballets Africains for fifteen years. After returning to Guinea from his final tour wtih the Ballet, Abou joined the Golden Award performance company, Les Merveilles de Kemoko Sano (known in Guinea as Les Merveilles D'Afrique). Abou performed globally with Les Merveilles for five years.
In 1995, Abou's passion for his own music compositions and performance talent drew him out of Africa to the United States where he was granted status as a Permanent-Artist-Resident. Settling in New York City, Abou co-founded and musically directed Fereba a fusion company of West African music and western tap-dancing, expanding his own ideas for musical compositions and performances. With co-founder, Irene Koloseus, a celebrated tap-dancer, the company delighted audiences in the United States and abroad.
During this period, Abou began recording with various New York studios, compiling recordings of his personal musical interpretations for future reference and release. Abou received a Fellowship Award from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a Meet the Composer Grant. Between 1998 and 2000, Mr. Sylla taught residency programs in the World Music Departments of the University of Florida, Gainesville, Wesleyan University, Illinois and Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.
In 2006, Abou was invited to join the faculty at the University of Florida World Music Department. During his three years at the University, he created an 8-part Musical Performance titled Agbedidi, a powerful balafon driven West African orchestration. Abou continued composing, recording, and archiving his music while in Florida.
In 2010 Abou engaged Joanne VanDeusen as his manager and moved to New Hampshire to develop his new projects. Later that year, Abou and Joanne travelled to Guinea for a five month-long stay where Abou began rehearsals with his nine children, ages fourteen to thirty-five. Abou taught his children the musical arrangements from the Give Thanks CD. On April 21, 2011, the BALAFON VIBRATION BAND debuted with the father at the Institute of the High Arts of Guinea (ISAG) drawing a full-house including distinguished guests from the US Embassy of Guinea and the Guinean Cultural Department. Abou has three instructional CD’s called Learn Balafon with N'Camara Abou Sylla which can be purchased as a set or individually. In addition to Give Thanks, he also released Just in Time in 2010 and is recording his third CD, set for release in 2015.
Abou gives solo performances, and plays with both the Abou Sylla Trio and Abou Sylla Ensemble.