Steamboat Springs Dr. Djo Bi knows the names of the past 50 generations of men in his family because of a song he learned.
In some African cultures, patriarchal information is passed down through songs, drummer Michael Kinnecom said. "And drumming is passed on from drummer to drummer, and teacher to drummer, by either showing or saying the different words for the sounds."
Bi, who is a master drummer from the village of Bangofla on the Ivory Coast of Africa, is visiting Steamboat Springs for a month. He came to teach African drum classes and is performing twice in the next week with the band Egeria. They play what Kinnecom calls "new generation, West African and Afro-Cuban jazz."
"We call it new generation because Bi came from Africa, but then lived in Europe and the U.S. As he plays with younger crowds, he uses new sounds and vibrations that kids are listening to," Kinnecom said. "He incorporates what he's learned from his roots and what he's heard in pop culture."
Two of the songs Egeria will play tonight were composed as a group, and Bi wrote the rest.
"Every tempo has a meaning," Kinnecom said. "Whether it's for a wedding, a birth or telling people the bad guys are coming.
"You learn the (drumming) language by almost singing it. There are different words for open hand sounds, closed hands or bass sounds. It sounds like pah-tah-goon-doh-gob-goon, and goes back and forth and alternates."
Kinnecom said there is never a dull moment when spending time with Bi.
"You should see him dance. His feet are so fast and he can spin his head about so fast like it's on a spring," he said. "And he can play his knuckles on anything bone and make distinct, interesting, continuous sounds and whole drum patterns. He's a character."