Toumaranke Gambia Recording Project

To record a CD of traditional West African music in Gambia.

We did it!

On 1st Sep 2014 we successfully raised £4,010 of £4,000 target with 41 supporters in 56 days

We are Toumaranke Percussion and this is our story. Please help us fundraise to record our debut album in The Gambia. We want to do this ourselves, not in a studio, so it will help us skill up in music technology.

The People.

My name is Chris Sylla and I’m a musician who plays and teaches West African percussion. I have been travelling to Gambia, Senegal and Guinea, to study music, for over 14 years now. In the last couple of years I’ve been working specifically with a group of Guineans called Toumaranke Percussion led by my husband, Moussa Sylla,and based in Gambia. These guys have next to nothing and are literally living from hand to mouth but are GREAT musicians and I want to help give them a chance to show what they can do.

Just for context: Gambia is 175th on the list of 193 of the world’s poorest countries, ie 18th from the bottom (World bank, 2010) and 48% of the population live below the poverty line. This means life is HARD and doesn’t always include dinner! We have a little sideline, making recycled jewellery Candora and this is helping to support the group, but we need quite a bit more cash.

Let me introduce you to the band...


Moussa Sylla: Born in Tombolia, Conakry, Guinea, where his father was a djembé player. Came to Gambia in 2002. Traveled around Gambia and Senegal with a variety of different bands playing and teaching traditional music to Europeans. Settled in Gambia in 2010. Main instruments: balafon, krin, bolon, gongo drums.

   Check out his Facebook page. 






Mohammed Bangoura. Born on the isle of Boum, Iles de Los, Guinea, His mother was a dancer. Came to Gambia on the same boat with Moussa and travelled with him playing mostly in the same groups. Settled in Gambia in 2004 and worked in various ensembles playing hotels and resturants. Main instruments: bolon, gongo, drums. Also a fine dancer and comic actor.








Daouda Keita Born in Boke, Guinea. Long term friend of  Moussas. Came to Senegal in 2013 to work as a dancer and moved to Gambia this year. Main instruments: krin, bolon, gongo, drums. Amazing dancer with more energy than is believable. Check out his Facebook page.









Yamoussa Camara Born in Conakry, Guinea. Came to Gambia in 2007 to play music. Main instruments: krin, bolon, gongo, drums. Great singer. Check out his Facebook page.





And me. I’ve known and worked with all the band members for varying lengths of time, I help support them when I can and we make incredible music together. I also facilitate workshops in Gambia, some with the band and some with ‘star’ djembé players such as Nansady Keita and Sidiki Dembele; so I have a support team there and a clear idea of what costs will be. Our biggest reward is a free place on this years’ workshop with the band in Oct/Nov this year (link). A fantastic opportunity to see what we do at first hand.

I realise some of the instruments played will be unfamiliar to people. The mandinka balafon is a kind of zylophone, the bolon is in the harp family (although it sounds more like a double bass) .The gongo  is a type of ideophone (an instrument which creates sound primarily by vibration). Basically these are all traditional instruments with a unique sound very different to electronic music. For ethnomusicology fans I’m about to write a guest blog for 'Travel with Kat ' on these instruments,so look out for that.  Short descriptions can also be found on our facebook page. A little video on the balafon and the making of a bolon, featuring Okameo I've just started a blog, Toumaranke, so there'll be more information there.

The Project.

What we want to do is record an album with Toumaranke Percussion in Gambia in Nov/Dec this year. The emphasis will be on ‘classical’ traditional African music. It won’t be in the djembé tradition, although some djembé will be featured, the balafon will be the lead instrument.

After an attempt several years ago to do some recording in a studio in Gambia from which we have 4 decent tracks we have decided that the best way is to record it ourselves. I want to take a friend of mine, Martin Messent, who has worked as an independent sound engineer, producer, arranger and musician for many years, to Gambia with me, and for us to work directly with the band rather than doing it through a studio. Martin will donate his time for free. He and I can then bring the recorded material back to England and mix/mater/press the finished CD here. This will give us more control over the project and also help to skill up the band in music technology. Martin mixed and mastered an EP I did with one of the groups I play with in England, Muso Bango (this is a drumming CD although it features a bit of balfon, but is recorded in the same kind of 'natural' style) so I know the quality of his work. We are hoping to have the whole thing finished and ready for release by the end of January.

The band have been working on the material for a CD and are ready to go. We have some of the equipment we require and have found a place we can stay in Gambia which will give us the space and privacy we need to record. The cook from my workshop team will come and feed us during the time we’re working. Two weeks together in Gambia will get it done well. So this is why we need you...

This is a unique opportunity for YOU to support fantastic musicians and help with a recording of traditional African music in the natural style in which it's played. This album, will help keep the tradition of the balafon, (so often replaced with a keyboard these days in recordings of African music) alive.

The Nitty Gritty.

To do this we need several things -

Two return plane tickets to Gambia for me and Martin, money for accommodation and food for us all while we’re recording in Gambia, money for the equipment (to be left with the band) and money to finish the project in England – the artwork, mixing, mastering and pressing.

  • Tickets will be around £480 each, it’s hard to be specific as prices change but around £1000 in total for travel expenses should do it.
  • Accommodation and food (including paying the cook) for 7 people for 2 weeks will be around £1000
  • That leaves us with equipment and production expenses and £2000 should cover those.(Equipment wise – we have 1 digital interface, all instruments, 3 laptops). The list below is what we now require. Anyone wanting to donate equipment can contact us directly. The idea is to leave the equipment in Gambia with the band when we’ve finished so they can go on to record other things.

Equipment List

  •  6 x RODE NT1A mics (incl 1 matched stereo pair)
  •  6 x boom mic stands
  •  2 x Beyer Dynamic DT100 Headphones
  • 10m speaker wire
  •  Headphone splitter adaptor
  •  Pair  Adam F5 Active Studio Monitors
  •  Pre amp: 6 x ins/outs,
  •  6 x XLR and jack mic leads (20m)
  •  2 x Surge protection (10 plug)
  •  6x XLR to jack mic leads (20m) 
  •  4 x jack to jack instrument leads (20m)
  •  That just leaves the artwork/logo for the CD and the mixing mastering and pressing costs. If we run out of money we can fundraise again for these when we get back


The Payoff.

If you support us for this project, in return you will get

Firstly the chance to be part of such a special project – without the power of the crowd we can’t make this happen and we’re grateful for all contributions, however small. You can help us by giving without wanting anything in return, you can donate money, skills or equipment. We have specifically listed the equipment we need and we’d be grateful for imput on the artwork side. Or you can give in exchange for some of the goodies we’re offering. Whatever you can do, to support, publicise or encourage this project: even if you’ve just got as far as reading this and talking about it to other people, you have our gratitude. We have an email list to let people know how we're getting along, we’ll update you weekly and send links to some lovely original video material. You can send an email to to be on this list.  For any more information please see my website. If we overfund we’ll use the excess to support the band with money for food and rent for as long as the money lasts. For them this makes a huge difference. We’re all excited about what we can do with the power of the crowd - so now it’s in your hands.

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