“Culture is coded in wisdom… in our songs, in our dances, in our plays.” 
– Wangari Maathai

Our Team of Cultural Talent

Meet Our Artists

“In Dagara culture, the drum is a transportation device that carries the listener into other worlds. Only the sound of the drum has the power to make one travel in this specific way. Where the sound-ship goes, everybody goes. To refuse to drum is to refuse to travel. To forget how to drum is to forget how to feel.” – Malidoma Some


Master Dancer: Afro-Brazilian Dance
Percussionist & Lead Vocalist for SambaDá

Elisangela Sousa, popularly known as “DANDHA DA HORA”, was born and raised in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Dandha da Hora has been a member of Ilê Aiyê, one of Brazil’s most important musical and cultural institutions, since she was 6 years old. A master dancer, as well as vocalist and percussionist, Dandha invokes the incredible spirit of Ilê Aiyê and Salvador, Bahia, each time she steps onstage. As a lead dancer with Ilê Aiyê, Dandha toured internationally and has shared the stage with many of Brazil’s most renowned artists such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Daniela Mercury.

In addition to performing with Ilê Aiyê and SambaDá, Dandha has performed with Casa Samba (New Orleans, LA), SambaDendê and Bateria Alegria (Boulder, CO), Banda Remelexo, and Bahia Soul (Bay Area, CA). Alongside a full touring schedule, Dandha also is a master dance teacher and teaches ongoing dance classes in Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as giving special online and in-person workshops across the country. Whether she is teaching, dancing, singing, or playing an instrument, Dandha’s art always reflects her passion for sharing Afro-Brazilian culture, and she brings a message of hope, love, equality, and freedom every time she performs.


Master Dancer: West African Dance

Mandjou Kone was born into a Griot family in Burkina Faso. She has performed since she was five years old, touring throughout Africa, Europe, and the U.S. She has taught in Africa, Europe (Paris, Grenoble, and Zurich), and in the U.S. since 1996. As a young girl, Mandjou assisted her Griot father in keeping his band alive by singing, dancing, and playing instruments like the Djembe, Bala, Dundun, Kora, and Tama. She also danced and performed with the National Ballet of Burkina Faso. With her brother’s group, ‘Surutukunu’, Mandjou toured Europe extensively as lead singer. Mandjou was then invited to come to the United States to help to translate a documentary about the last 40 years of her family’s musical tradition and history.

Taale Laafi Rossellini met the Kone family in Burkina Faso in the late ’60s. He produced a documentary about the Kone Family, titled “Great Great Great Grandparents’ Music” The film’s US premiere was in the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, Best Documentary Nomination, Los Angeles, PanAfrican Film Festival, the biggest Black film festival in the U.S. and later on the west coast at the Cascade African Film Festival in Portland Oregon. “Great Great Great Grandparents’ Music” was praised by documentary critics, and received several awards and nominations, including Prix Spécial Award, FESPACO (Festival Panafricain du Cinéma de Ouagadougou), the biggest Black film festival in the world. Awarded by Ousmane Sembene, internationally acclaimed author, and filmmaker. Mandjou is a very popular dance educator and has been teaching and performing over the past eleven years throughout the US. In March 2003 in Santa Cruz, CA she was honored with the ‘Calabash Award’ for her excellence in the ethnic arts. She currently teaches West African Dance at UC Santa Cruz.


Master Dancer: Guinea, Mali & Senegalese Dance

Oumou Faye is from Dakar, Senegal where she started dancing before she could walk. She is known for her grace and joy in movement. She is a patient and clear teacher. She now lives in Santa Cruz with her husband Mbor Faye (who drums for her classes) and her two children, Coumba and Seyne. They hold weekly popular classes there and also share their art beyond leading dance classes throughout the greater Bay Area.



Master Dancer: Guinea Dance

Marietou Camara was born in Guinea, West Africa. Recognized as a dance prodigy, she started dancing with her mother at age five, performing in front of live audiences in the capital city of Conakry for many years. Marietou danced with the world-renowned Les Merveilles de Guinée and won a major dancing award for her solo performance in the program called “Kolou” or Crazy Girl.



Master Dancer: Contemporary Nangama Congolese Dance

Vivien Bassouamina first discovered his love for dancing at the age of 8 watching and imitating Michael Jackson and soon began studying hip hop with Jon Mora, Vanuse Amigo, Dj Pazo, and Pranse Monar. When Vivien turned 10 he joined Ballet Sama where he learned and immediately started performing traditional Congolese dance with his teacher Muliek Mequiza. In 1997 Vivien discovered his love for modern dance in Ballet and after Vivien broke away from the National Ballet of Congo at the age of 19 he began to choreograph and perform in many different groups. Between 2001- 2006 he formed, managed, choreographed, and performed in 5 different groups. Kimbongela was solely a traditional Congolese dance group but the others, T4, Zoudjakatchopa, and Ballet Zu were created after Vivien had studied classical Ballet intensely with the Parisian company ‘Paco Decina’, with Paco Decina and Valeria Apicella. Meanwhile he continued to study Modern dance with teacher Julie Decavie and also modern and expressionist dancing with Hyacinthe Tobio. Thus inspired, Vivien began to create his own beautiful blend of mystical traditional Congolese dance, with the precision of classical ballet and modern dance. 

In 2005 Vivien studied with Nii Tagoe, a choreographer and traditional dancer from Ghana who was then living in England. He joined his company Frititi for two months and then became a top performer in FESPAM ( Festival Pan-African de Musique). In 2006 he co-founded the company, Li Sangha. Vivien choreographed this group with one other dancer and it was at this time that he was invited to travel to France to attend the African choreography gathering in Paris. They earned two laurels and 2nd place overall in the competition as well as the France Radio Internationale dance prize with their study ‘Mana Mambu’.

Li Sangha toured in Africa, Amsterdam, Finland, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and were also invited to come to San Fransisco to perform. Since immigrating to America in 2007, Vivien has taught at several conferences and choreographed and performed in several festivals in San Fransisco and the Bay Area. He teaches traditional Congolese dance in Santa Cruz, California, and the Bay Area.

Ibou Ngom

Master Drummer (Djembefola)
Master Dancer: West African Dance

Ibrahima (Ibou) N’gom facilitates community drumming and dancing with adults and students of all ages. As a SPECTRA Resident Artist, he has worked with and performed for elementary though high school students, at-risk youth and university students. 

Ibou speaks English, Spanish, French, and his native Wolof. His group Domu Africa is a favorite in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. Together they bring the sights and sounds of Senegal alive through traditional music and dance performances. With his set of student-sized instruments, Ibou can turn any room into an African drum corp. His patient and friendly teaching style make him a popular teacher.

Born into a Griot family of traditional musicians in Senegal, West Africa, he has been carrying on his family’s musical lineage since childhood. Ibrahima toured with two prominent Senegalese dance companies, the 2nd National Ballet of Senegal and the Ballet Sinomew before coming to the United States. Since then Ibou has been working to share his native culture’s music and dance traditions with US audiences and especially students.



Master Dancer: Contemporary Nangama Congolese Dance

M’Bor Faye is a drummer that created a name for himself in the Bay Area through his talent as a versatile drummer (Djembe, Sabar, Djun Djun etc…).


Master Drummer (Djembefola)

KENNETH BROWN II (SANGOYEMESI) is from Milwaukee, WI and now residing in Las Vegas, NV. Ken began his drumming at a young age raised in the traditional Nigerian-Benin Yoruba culture. He has studied with masters from all over the world. Ken embodies the culture of Djembe drumming! Ken also speaks English, Ebonics, Drum Talk and Yoruba.