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Musician Bongo Sidibe Serenades the Lower School

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Head-Royce News March 5, 2019

On Tuesday, February 26, Head-Royce welcomed Alpha Oumar “Bongo” Sidibe, a musician from Conakry, Guinea in West Africa, along with two of his bandmates. Bongo Sidibe is the Musical Director of Duniya Dance and Drum Company, as well as a singer and percussionist with Dogon Lights, “an Afro-Hip hop group where West Oakland meets West Africa.” Sidibe has also performed with Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Ballet Jah Karlo in Dakar, and many more artists worldwide.

As students entered the Lower School music room, their eyes lit up, eager to see and hear the instruments they’d studied in French class. To prepare for the music-filled day, they’d learned to identify a range of West African instruments, “by sound, sight, and instrumental family. They also reviewed the [French] names for emotions, identifying the various emotions that listening to and playing music can evoke.”

Twenty-four students from the Francophone Charter School Oakland (FCSO) joined the special occasion. Over the past four years, French teacher Sarah Sharp has developed a close relationship with FCSO, bringing her third graders to the school “to connect with other students learning French in the area. Since FCSO is an immersion school, our students are quite challenged and inspired to converse in French with their buddies.”

Bongo Sidibe opened by asking the students if they’d seen The Lion King. Students happily nodded and raised their hands. Sidibe explained that the Disney movie is based on West African history and tells the story of Mansa Sundiata Keita, the first Emperor of the Mali Empire, who was nicknamed the Lion King of Mali. The students were intrigued and leaned in to listen. Sidibe then introduced his instruments, asking if anyone could identify the stringed instrument his bandmate was holding.

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