Mor Thiam

His name is Thiam (pronounced Chom), which means historian in his native language. Mor Thiam is a descendant of the Dagon tribe of Senegal, and was born to a family of historians who use the drum to tell the story of the Wollof people in Senegal. Mor Thiam, master drummer, teacher and performer, has been performing since the age of eight, and has taught drumming at many major African and American Universities, including the University of Dakar in Senegal (when he worked with the National Ballet of Senegal), the University of Miami and Boston University. Perhaps, no other African drummer has received as much recognition as Mr. Thiam. The legend of his technique on the djembe and other African membranophones is unrivaled. Mor Thiam was first made famous by Katherine Dunham; in 1968, he joined Katherine's dance company as composer-in-residence and head of the percussion department of Southern Illinois University. Mor was in the right place at the right time to link up with the most venturesome American modernists. At the same time, he has performed with many Jazz and Blues greats, including Freddie Hubbard, Nancy Wilson, B.B. King and Lester Bowie. Mor Thiam's professional advice is highly sought on many African projects. He regularly consults for organizations like The Lion King Production, Disney World, City of Atlanta's Bureau of Cultural Affairs, and the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta. Back To Africa, Mor's first Justin Time release as a leader (May 1999) was recorded at Youssou N'Dour's new studios in Dakar. For this occasion Thiam has assembled some of the finest Senegalese singers and instrumentalists. The result is an infectious and highly percussive collection of songs performed with Thiam's recognizable style and energy.

On Back To Africa, Mor draws on sources from Senegal, Gambia, Mali, the Ivory Coast Guinea and Sierra Leone to express better his artistic thoughts. The recording is balanced with contemporary rhythms and melodies many in a cool jazz style but with a poise of traditional Senegalese influence. Back To Africa inevitably suggests something of its creator's global perspective and pan-cultural wisdom. Mor Thiam has come out of Africa, yet Africa can never be got out of Mor; his very first album N'dedi Safarrar (1974) recorded with Nancy Wilson & B.B. King was in benefit of the African drought victims, and everything else he had presented since then was high-spirited, impressively personal music charged with his homeland sumptuous palette. Authentic African rhythm alternating with up-to-the-minute Afro-pop well defines Thiam's group projects in the last decade or so. He shared stages and studios with innovative members of St. Louis' Black Artists Group such as Julius Hemphill and Oliver Lake, founders of the World Saxophone Quartet.

Through WSQ baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, Mor eventually met pianist Don Pullen, who put him in his African Brazilian Connection sextet with Brazilian "timba" percussionist Guilherme Franco. The ABC recorded four critically acclaimed albums, including a project with indigenous Americans from Montana's Salish-Kootenai Reservation. In 1998/99, together with Hamiet Bluiett and pianist D.D. Jackson, Mor released two extraordinary recordings: Same Space & Join Us (Justin Time Records). Since the mid '90s, he's maintained a residence in Atlanta, Georgia and a home in Dakar. Touring endlessly, Mor is an energetic, well-rooted cosmopolitan.