"Our greatest display of preservation is seen and felt through drum and dance."


Abidjan | Founded 2017 | 100+ Youth Served

Why Ivory Coast?

Adama Dembele is a 33rd generation musician from Ivory Coast, West Africa. He has been a culture keeper with LEAF for more than 12 years. In January 2015, the Ivory Coast government demolished their family home and many others in Abobo (a city of 1.5 million people), citing erosion and unsafe conditions, a fact that is common in this part of the country where very little infrastructure exists. Thousands of people were pushed out of their homes with one week’s notice–some forced at gunpoint–and were given no temporary housing or compensation. Many families and chil­dren are now homeless with little expectation that the Ivory Coast government will provide housing or reimbursement for those im­pacted. To support the continuation of the inspirational work of the Dembele family, LEAF partners with Adama & Dra Dembele and Krimbo Delagrange to provide West African Drum & Dance traditions to the community.

Program Overview

Demolished in 2015 by the government, the Djembeso Drum & Dance Educa­tion Center was a place for people of all ages to study drumming, dance, and learn about West African culture. Local Asheville musicians have traveled to study there, including members of Zansa and Toubab Krewe, as well as countless others from around the world. The Dem­bele household, known as Djembeso, or House of Djembe, has been a link between Asheville and West Africa for over a decade, though the family has been sharing their music for centuries. The Dembele family has been passing on their musical heritage and culture for nearly 700 years. Because of the great amount of respect LEAF has for African traditions and its culture keepers, LEAF partners with Krimbo Delagrange and the Dembele family to support the continuation of West African Drum and Dance classes in the Ivory Coast.

This LEAF International program includes:
Twice-daily rehearsals focusing on traditional West African dance & drumming
Monthly Community Performances
Meals for youth between rehearsals
Rehearsals in Ivory Coast and Mali

“Several students come from Burkina, Mali, and different Ivory Coast regions to learn from me. I feel like a father figure to the orphans in the neighborhood. We want to have a place to continue teaching our traditions.”
Dramane Dembele
LEAF International Culture Keeper


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Program Highlights

  • Youth perform at 5 community performances from Jan – April
  • The program transforms with the leadership of culture keeper Krimbo.

Resiliency – Even without a standing culture center, Culture Keeper Dramane Dembele creates a partnership with the SOS d’Abobo Orphanage to teach classes 3 times per week. His classes quickly reached full capacity in a matter of days.

Official LEAF International Ivory Coast program created.

4th Annual Soumu Event – A fundraiser and celebration of African Music, Dance, Food, & Art on Sept 16. Funds were raised through the Soumu Event for the purchase of land in Bomako, Mali. Mali was chosen as the new location over Ivory Coast for reasons such as safety and the Malian government’s history of supporting music and preserving culture.

KRIMBO, whose name means “genius of the drum-speaker,” is a percussionist, dancer, painter and artistic trainer. His professional aptitude led him to several troupes in Ivory Coast and in the sub-region. With the recruitment of several children, he created his artistic dance company in 2006 to train youth in the art of art in general, dance, percussion, storytelling, singing, painting. With this need, the KRIMBO Artistic Training Center (CFAK) was born because it was inspired by an expression drawn from the confines of the Akan region. Krimbo demonstrates all his talent as a percussionist and dancer in the Ivory Coast, Europe and Asia. 

“We always learn a lot and very fast. Like yesterday we started drumming and today we are professional because our teacher really focuses on us.”

This program is co-led by youth from the Abobo Children’s Orphanage. 




Mayani is a Maasai boy from longido Arusha. He went to boarding school at 6 years old and lost his Maasai language and tradition. Since joining the LEAF program, he has learned to sing Maasai songs, practiced the ‘jump’ tradition and wear Maasai shukas (traditional clothing). Mayani is extremely happy and is currently teaching other youth the culture.