Oumar Keita

A native of Guinea, West Africa,Oumar Keita is known for his extensive knowledge of music and history. Oumar showed an interest in traditional music and began singing at an early age. He continues to sing and write traditional music but can also rap in Malinke, Susu and French. Oumar Keita plays traditional instruments like the bolon, gnoni and N’gongoma, which accompany his singing.

Since 2009 he has been a musician in the nationally recognized Ballet Saamato of Conakry, Guinea. Primarily a dundun player, Oumar is also a dancer and djembe player.  For the past 2 years, he played with Wofa percussion in Conakry.

 Ballet Saamato gave Oumar the opportunity to share his country’s rich cultural tradition of music and dance with the children. He has traveled to small villages in Guinea and has worked with orphanages such as SOS in Conakry, integrating art into their lives.

Since moving to Missoula with his wife, he has become a member of the community dance and drum group Djebe Bara. The members of the group are grateful to have someone with such a wide variety of expertise and an easy-going attitude.  Oumar has decided to venture out of his country’s music and is now learning Gamelan in the local group Manik Harum.

Heidi Waegele
Heidi has studied many forms of dance throughout her life, but fell in love with African dancing in her native California. She began studying Congolese dancing in 2002 and shortly after, dance from Guinea. Heidi traveled with Manimou Camara to Guinea in the winter of 2016 to study dance. She also plays a xylophone-like instrument known as the balafon, an integral part of Guinean music She loves attending camps to learn more and makes frequent visits to Seattle for classes. Heidi teaches private piano lessons from her home and is an accompanist for students at UM.

Djebe Bara is a community dance and drum group. Members of the performing group teach the dance classes. Djebe also has guest teachers who visit on occasion. Here are the bios of members of the performance group. 

Djebe Bara Members

​​What is there to say about Courtney? 

She's the greatest !!

Courtney does it all . . . ..

Courtney Sowa

Hillary Funk Welzenbach
Hillary has studied West African dance, with an emphasis in Sabar dance, in Oakland, Seattle and Dakar, Senegal. She spent a year studying West African dance in Senegal as well as dance therapy.

Dorothy Morrison
Dorothy is a career music educator who has been playing djembe since 1991. She has studied in Africa and on the West Coast with djembe greats - Mamady Keita and Famadou Konate - and in Missoula with Manimou Camara. She is lead djembe for Djebe Bara

Tracy Topp

A dancer since she was three, Tracy has experience and training in West African, Middle Eastern, modern, hip-hop and jazz dance. She has studied African dance with many teachers including: Youssouf Koumbassa, Mabiba Baenge, Djeneba Sako and Manimou Camara. Tracy has been teaching and performing African dance with Drum Brothers since 2004 and Djebe Bara since 2011. 

Instructor Backgrounds

Tamara McGinley
     Tamara has studied some form of dance her entire life from ballet to jazz. In 2008 she traveled to Guinea, West Africa, where she studyied under Youssouf Koumbassa.

Sarah McClain
Sarah has been doing African Dance for 20 years and she plans on doing it for another 20 years!! She has strong ties to Africa and has studied under Youssouf Koumbassa and Djeneba Sato among others.

​​​​Alicia Crandall
When Alicia took her first West African Dance class in 2008 she was hooked! During the winter of 2014 she traveled to Guinea, West Africa for a 3 week cultural tour studying drum and dance. Her dance teachers in Guinea included Youssouf Koumbassa, Mamadama Bangoura and Totti Sylla. Alicia plays mbira, an instrument from Zimbabwe and is a student of the djembe studying with Matthew Marsolek since 2012.

Willy Welzenbach
Willy Welzenbach is our resident Sabar drummer.  He started studying Sabar in Seattle, WA with Mapathe Diop in 2001 and 2002, then really delved into it in Oakland, CA and Dakar, Senegal with Master Drummer Idrissa Gueye from 2002 through 2006.  During that time, Willy did equal parts Sabar dance (with award-winning Master Dancer Ndeye Gueye) and drumming, including performing for Senegalese weddings, dance parties, and a diplomatic visit by the Office of the President of Senegal. Since then, Willy has been keeping the faith in Missoula, and runs The Barn Movement Studio with his wife, Hillary. 

Boo Curry

Laurel Ann "Boo" Curry plays doundouns, djembe, and the mbira like a devil and dances and sings like an angel ~ and here she plays hoshos!

Catherine Sanders
 Catherine has been dancing formally since she was four, but didn't discover the joys of African Dance until she settled down in Missoula in her mid-twenties. As she travels for work, she continues to learn dance, drum, and song from Kenya and Uganda. Catherine is currently on sabbatical in California.