Monette Marino
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Monette Marino

San Diego, California, United States | SELF

San Diego, California, United States | SELF
Band World Funk


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"Monette Marino Keita’s eagerly awaited debut albumn, “Coup d’Eclat”, is launched on the 1st of April."

Monette is a world percussionist from the US, who has studied rhythms from Latin America and West Africa. She is also heavily influenced by funk and rock music and has transposed traditional rhythms onto western instruments to create a new category of music she is calling NuAfroBeat.

Monette is well known in djembe circles, as being a screaming djembe player and Mamady Keita’s wife. She can be found on many videos along side Mamady and tours and performs with him regularly.

This is Monette’s first solo project and she wrote all of the music on the album, and the cd was arranged and co-produced by Allan Phillips.

“Coup d’Eclat” is an instrumental explosion of funk, latin and african inspired rhythms and melodies. She he has figured out a way to weave all of these styles together creating a fresh new sound which has been described as if you were to put Santana, James Brown and Fela Kuti all on stage together.

Monette has brought together the most talented musicians to accompany her on guitar, keyboards, bass, saxophone, flute, trumpet, kora and steel drum. If you like upbeat, funky, rock, latin, african and especially percussive music then you must have this CD. -

"San Diego’s Monette Marino-Keita circles the globe through percussion Read more:"

By Mikel Toombs, SDNN
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Think locally, drum globally.

That philosophy has served well for Monette Marino-Keita, the lifelong San Diego County resident who has assimilated a wide array of drumming “systems” from Africa and Latin America, even Tonga and Korea. She’s mastered styles ranging from Brazilian batucada (she was once a member of the local batucada group Sol e Mar) to West African djembe, which she teaches in her local school of percussion, Tam Tam Mandingue USA.

For all her accomplishment, the well-traveled Marino-Keita, who performs Thursday (March 25) at Anthology with her all-star ensemble, shies away from the supreme title in her field, “master drummer.”

“I could say I’m a talented drummer, I am an expert drummer. But I would never consider myself that,” Marino-Keita said. “For me that’s a whole other significance that really comes from people who are born into the culture.”

In Marino-Keita’s immediate family, that “master drummer” label properly belongs to her husband, djembe wizard Mamady Keita, whom she met in San Diego in 1996 and subsequently studied with in his native Guinea over the course of three years. (The two developed a “special bond” typical of the teacher-student relationship, Marino-Keita said, while respecting the already-married Keita’s situation.)

Born into the Manding culture, Keita, who founded the original Tam Tam Mandingue (the local school is the 11th branch), will teach the djembe style here on April 25 through May 8 at a drum camp entitled “Mini-Guinea 2010.”

Marino-Keita’s father is no slouch either. Vincenzo “Jim” Marino’s group, The Strangers, opened for the Rolling Stones in a well-remembered 1964 Starlight Bowl appearance and earlier was the first San Diego band, his proud daughter recounted, “to have a Top 40 Billboard hit,” the 1959 instrumental “Caterpillar Crawl.”

Jim Marino introduced Monette to the drums at age 9 and to congas five years later, “and once I got that connection on the hand drums, it took me away completely from drum set,” Marino-Keita said. “It’s very tactile, very sensual, very passionate, very powerful, definitely a lot of energy.”

At first, she was “more interested in the Latin percussion from a pop sensibility,” she added. However, once she studied in Tijuana with Cuban percussionists shortly after graduating from UCSD in 1994, she both started exploring the inherent cultural expression and decided to pursue a career in music (her degree is in visual arts).

Marino-Keita has made a name for herself as a solo performer, even winning the National Hand Drum-Off in Los Angeles in 2001. (One comment on the resulting YouTube clip: “bad ass.”)

However, she’s accompanied by a number of top-flight musicians, including Grammy winner (as a producer) local guitarist Larry Mitchell, on her new album, “Coup d’Eclat,” which will be available at her Thursday show and then at CD Baby and on iTunes. (The same percussion-rich cast, minus one drummer, will join her at Anthology.)

On “Coup d’Eclat” Marino-Keita set out “to create music that represents my world vision, and how I feel about the world and how I hear music,” she said. “I felt like all the music that I hear is very categorized, but there’s nothing that has really been able to envelop all these styles of music into one good listening, where you have, really, elements of every style present.

“And I wanted to show all of my influences. I wanted to be able to get out, in music, all of the experiences I’ve been having around the world, because I’ve been doing so much traveling and I’ve been exposed to so many cultures and so many styles of music. I really felt there’s so much out there in the world that we’re not getting in touch with, because it’s too esoteric if it’s only one style.”

Event info
What: Monette Marino-Keita
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25
Where: Anthology, 1337 India St., downtown/Little Italy
Tickets: $18

Read more:
- San Diego News Network

"Percussionist Monette Marino-Keita spans the world on her solo debut"

Africa has been swapping music with the Americas for generations. The slave trade brought African music across the Atlantic hundreds of years ago, leading to the development of genres like rumba, calypso and samba, not to mention jazz and R&B. Eventually, it all ended up back where it started, in the form of styles like Afrobeat and soukous, an African rumba popular in the Congo.

So consider percussionist Monette Marino-Keita’s solo debut, last April’s Coup d’Eclat, the latest effort in a long tradition of mixing and matching.

In “Toumani,” an instrumental piece that pairs a West African melody with a Cuban rhythm, the 42year-old San Diego native plays balafon (a traditional African instrument similar to a xylophone) over congas. The saxophone melody in “Can’t Borrow Beauty,” a jazz-fusion jam written for a full band, comes straight from a folk song that schoolgirls sing in the West African nation of Guinea.

“They’re all so good that I can’t just say, ‘I like this one and I only like this one and I only like this one,’” Marino-Keita says in an interview at Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge in North Park, referring to the range of rhythms she’s studied: West African, Cuban, Brazilian, Korean. “I like to hear them all, so I try to make them merge.”

Marino-Keita was introduced to the drums by her father, a self-taught drummer who’s played in a number of local bands. She started out rocking the drum set over records by Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, but when she was 15, she picked up the congas and was soon enchanted by the “tactile experience” of thumping out rhythms with her hands.

“It’s almost like an extension of your body,” she says. “You really feel like that drum skin becomes part of your spirit. Whatever you’re hearing and thinking is coming out onto the skin.”

Drums have long played a key role in possession ceremonies and other spiritual rituals. But the drums also have a secular purpose, as Marino-Keita learned when she began traveling to Guinea in the ’90s to study the djembe and dununs, drums that the Mandingue people use in anything from baptisms to weddings.

“Everything that they do has a rhythm to celebrate that event,” she says. “For example, you gotta go weed the field, prepare the field for the planting of the seeds. You have drummers that accompany while you’re doing the work. Because it’s hot. It’s not a lot of fun. But when there’s music and people singing, everything goes by faster.”

Today, Marino-Keita runs a drumming school, Tam Tam Mandingue, with her husband Mamady Keita, a world-renowned master drummer from Guinea. They’ve traveled the world teaching drumming and they host an annual drum camp at Keita’s house in Matoto, a coastal suburb of Conakry, Guinea’s capital.

In December 2008, more than two-dozen students from across the world were taking lessons in Keita’s courtyard when Lansana Conté, the country’s ailing dictator of 24 years, died of an unspecified illness. The military immediately took power, closing the country’s borders, installing a transitional government and announcing a weeklong period of mourning in keeping with Muslim tradition. (Guinea is predominantly Muslim.)

“Guinea luckily stayed very calm during this whole period of time, so there was no threat of violence on us,” Marino-Keita says. “But we couldn’t drum.”

With nothing else to do, she wrote the songs that would later become Coup d’Eclat (a play on the French term coup d’état that roughly translated means “burst of joy”). Using the music software GarageBand, she tapped out bass lines and conga rhythms on her laptop’s keyboard. Back in San Diego, she worked with producer Allan Phillips to arrange the sketches for a live band.

Last year, the first democratic elections in Guinea’s history went off smoothly. But just to be safe, Marino- Keita canceled this January’s drum camp. Instead, her husband will join her nine-piece band onstage at Anthology this week.

“That’s going to be a treat,” she says. “[We’ll] bring him up for at least two songs, probably more. Because once he’s into the groove, he won’t want to leave the stage.”

Monette Marino-Keita, Mamady Keita and The Tribal Energy Dance Troupe will perform at Anthology on Thursday, Jan. 6.
- San Diego City Beat magazine


2010 Monette Marino Keita, Coup d’Eclat, Djembefola Productions
2006 Tokeli, Where Do You Start, Peter Sprague
2003 Jan Tober, Just The Way You Look Tonight, Inner Focus Music
2003 Peter Sprague, Pass The Drum, Strivin’ To Break Even Records
2003 Jamie Kim, Galatea, Shadowlight Studio
2002 Patrick Yandall, Back to the Groove, Zangi Records
2002 M’Tafiti Imara, MWAFRIKA,The Kuumba Project
2000 Keni Yarborough, MIIG, Passion Records
2000 Kindred, Kindred, Rebirth Entertainment
2000 Eileen Meyer, Inevitable, Lightpaver Music
2000 Eric Foster, Paint The Wind, Guitarmuse Production
1999 Semisi M’au, I Never Left, KSM Records
1998 Larry Mitchell, Insatiable, String Time Music

Performance Ensembles: Popular Music
2010-present Monette Marino Keita: World Music
2010-present Dorian Holley Band
2010-present Jeff Linsky: Latin Jazz
2010-present Taxi Dancehall, by Ivan Kane
2003-2006 Haute Chile : High-Energy Dance Band
2002-2006 Rhythm Slam: percussive dance ensemble
2002-2006 The Steely Damned: Steely Dan Tibute Band
2002-2005 Jorge Camberos: Latin Jazz
2001-2005 Will Sumner: Latin & Contemporary Jazz
2001-2005 Dr.Feelgood & The Interns of Love: High-Energy Dance Band
2001-present Atomic Groove: High-Energy Dance Band
2001-present Peter Sprague: Contemporary & Latin Jazz
2001-2006 Jose Serrano: Latin Jazz/Rock
2000-2006 Kemau Kenyatta: Jazz, R&B, Soul, Funk
2000-2006 Urban Gypsy’s: R&B, Funk, Soul
2000-2005 Joe Rathburn: Caribbean & Calypso
1999-2005 Quiet Storm: R&B, Funk, Soul
1999-2005 Carl Evans Jr. Ensemble: Contemporary Jazz
1996-2005 Island Fever: Caribbean Steel Drum
1995-2005 Karl Anthony: New Age
1994-present Semisi and Fula Bula Band: Worldbeat
1999-2001 Patrick Yandall: Contemporary Jazz
1999-2001 Reggi Smith: Contemporary Jazz
1998-2000 Del Mundo: Neuvo Flamenco
1998-2000 Larry Mitchell: Contemporary Jazz
1997-2000 Christina Veronica: Latin Jazz

Performance Ensembles: Folkloric Music
1997-2004 Omo Ache, Afro-Cuban Percussion and Dance ensemble
(percussionist, singer, dancer).
1996-1999 Afrekete, Afro-Cuban Percussion and Dance ensemble
(percussionist, singer, dancer).
1995–1998 Sol E Mar, Brazilian Percussion ensemble
performed with Sergio Mendes at Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles)
1995-1997 Zinco, African and Afro-Cuban Percussion and Dance ensemble (percussionist, singer, dancer).



Monette Marino began drumming in 1976 when her father initiated her on his sparkle blue Ludwig drum set. In 1981 her father gave her a lesson on the congas and it was at that moment that she fell in love with the skin on skin contact and began to immerse herself into the world of hand drumming. She spent the next 20 years exploring Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian rhythms (popular and folkloric styles) and developing her skills on the congas with local San Diego percussionists (Gary Greenberg, Mark Lamson, Michael Spiro) as well as Master Drummers from Cuba and Brazil (Regino Jimenez, Viscaino, Jorge Alabe).

In 1988 she met Leon Mobley while at UCLA and began her journey into West African rhythms and techniques for the djembe. In the spring of 1993, she met Malian drummer Yaya Diallo who expanded her vocabulary on the djembe. That same year she was introduced to traditional Korean drumming by Mr. Kim Duk Soo, Founder/Director of “Samul Nori”, who came to UCSD to complete a weeklong teaching residency. At the end of the residency, Kim Duk Soo invited her to attend their World Music Festival in Seoul, S. Korea in 1995 and to compete in a “Kyorugi”, a traditional Korean drum competition, for which placed 4th place in 1995 and 2nd place in 1997.

Monette began her apprenticeship with Master Djembe Drummer Mamady Keita, from Guinea, West Africa, in January of 1997 when she made a one-month trip to his home in Conakry to study the percussion of the Manding. After three years of intensive studies with Mr. Keita, she received a Teaching Certificate from him recognizing her knowledge and skill in traditional Manding percussion. Monette was then granted permission by Mr. Keita to open the 11th branch of his international percussion school Tam Tam Mandingue in 1998. She continues to study and perform with Mamady Keita whom she married in 2005.

Her professional playing career began when she met local composer and musician Semisi Ma’u, originally from Tonga. Semisi encouraged Monette to express her musical talents by joining his band “Semisi and Fula Bula” (which translates to Semisi and a Big Hello). Semisi’s music was the perfect blend of his native South Pacific island grooves with a little reggae, blues, rock and even Latin spice. This was Monette’s first outlet for her reservoir of skill and knowledge that had accumulated over the last 15 years.

Though she continued to study traditional drumming from Africa, Cuba, Brazil and Korea with Master Drummers from these respective countries and traveled to Guinea, Cuba and Korea to deepen her understanding, she was simultaneously building her reputation locally as a strong performer. She was a member of the folkloric ensembles “Afrekete”, “Omo Ache”, “Zinco” and “Sol e Mar”, and she was quickly added to the roster of many local bands playing everything from Jazz to Salsa, Samba, Reggae, Funk, Disco, Soul, R&B, Rock and even Country music.

In 2001, Monette won the National Hand Drum-Off competition at Drum Day LA, sponsored by the Guitar Center. Participants competed all over the country and three finalists were chosen from New York, Miami and Los Angeles to perform at the House of Blues in Hollywood.

Since 2004 she has been touring with Master Drummer Mamady Keita teaching classes and performing with him and his band Sewa Kan around the world. Together they have visited over 20 countries on 6 continents.

In 2010 she branched out on her own as a Solo Artist. She has written and produced her first album titled “Coup d’Eclat” which was nominated for Best World Music Album by the San Diego Music Academy. Her music blends African and Latin rhythms and melodies inside Funk and Rock grooves. Her all-star band includes Grammy-Award winning producer Larry Mitchell on guitar, Grammy-Nominated and Emmy-Award winning Producer/Arranger Allan Phillips on keyboards and National Drum-Off finalist Mike Holguin on drums. Also featured on her debut CD is her husband, Master Djembe Drummer Mamady Keita (visit for bio). Monette’s music highlights traditional African instruments such as the Djembe, Kora (known as the African Harp) and Balafon as well as the Caribbean Steel Drum, and of course loads of Latin percussion. It is truly World Music.

Monette also began an understudy with Shelia E. as a featured percussionist in a Latin dance Burlesque show, “Taxi Dancehall”, produced by Ivan Kane of the famed “40 Deuce” Burlesque show, and is also the percussionist for singer Dorian Holley, American Idol vocal coach, back-up singer and vocal director for Michael Jackson, singer with the Ricky Minor Band on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Monette continues to explore many drumming systems from around the world and has a deep respect for the cultural heritage preserved and passed on through the language of the drum.