I first encountered the West African djembe — the instrument that has become my passion — in 1999. When I met Mamady Keita, a native of Guinea and a master djembe drummer, I knew I had found my path. In regular workshops with Keita, I continue to explore the rich history of this vibrant musical tradition. Other teachers I have been fortunate to study with include Mahiri Fadjimba Keita-Edwards, Famoudou Konate, Namory Keita, and Moussa Traore. From each one I have gained new insights and skills. Along with the djembe, my repertoire of instruments includes the dunun, tama (talking drum), bala, ngoni and kora, as well as western percussion instruments such as marimba, malletKAT, and drumset.


A teacher, as well as a musician, my goal is to instill in others an appreciation for the music and culture of West Africa, a culture that has much to teach us about cooperation and celebration, about performance and participation—about the power of music to build community. For 15 years I have worked with both children and adults, offering classes and drum circles, workshops and group performances. Along the way, we all learn together, embracing the challenge and the joy of rhythm-making. My approach is embodied in the West African word kereya, which means persistence—the persistence that sparks and sustains every successful creative endeavor.


I have a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s in music, both from the University of New Hampshire. Now, as I work towards my certification in Tam Tam Mandingue, the internationally recognized school created by Mamady Keita, I consider myself lucky to be on a lifelong journey of challenge and discovery.


Carl Nickerson performs on his djembe! Give a call to bring Studio Kereya to you.