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Siama’s Congo Roots

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HomeArtistsSiama’s Congo Roots

“In Congo, music is so fun. It’s shared by everyone in the community and it’s a part of everything we do.”

Whether performing or hosting a super fun educational program, Siama loves taking audiences on a delightful journey to his African homeland.

More About the Artist

Siama (see-AHH-maw) enjoyed a joyful, adventuresome childhood in the western region of DR Congo known as “Bas Congo”, so storytelling and music are in his DNA. As a teenager, he hit the city with a guitar and world-sized ambitions. His opportune enlistment by a popular band launched what would become an illustrious career. While living in Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Dubai and Japan, Siama recorded hundreds of songs and toured the world with popular artists, earning the title, “Soukous Legend”. Now in Minneapolis, he’s received a McKnight Fellowship and numerous grants and his latest kids’ CD (“The Land of Yangalele”) received a Parents’ Choice Parent Approved award and a Creative Child Preferred Choice award. Siama has become known for intricate acoustic guitar, catchy songs, spirited singing and traditional African instruments like Mbira and Kongoma (thumb pianos), Balafon (marimba) and Lokole (tone drum).

Siama and his wife and musical partner Dallas Johnson have performed at places like Orchestra Hall’s Sommerfest, The Ordway, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Walker Arts Center, Northrop Plaza, Hopkins Center for the Arts – Downtown Park, Selby Jazz Festival, Lowertown Guitar Festival, Symphony Space (New York City), Pilgrimage Fest (Nashville, TN), Alys Stephen’s Recital Hall (Birmingham, AL), libraries in New Orleans, LA, Arrowhead Center for the Arts (Grand Marais), International Festival (Worthington), Reif Center (Grand Rapids), Young Authors Conference (Staples), Caponi Art Park, The District (Sioux Falls, SD), they’ve presented their program at hundreds of libraries, elementary, middle and high schools, universities, nursing homes, memory care facilities and hospitals and their program is popular with sensory-friendly audiences.

 In addition to being COMPAS Teaching Artists, Siama and Dallas provide children’s education programs for Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s “Class Notes Artists”, The Ordway and the Schubert Club. They recently earned World Music Pedagogy certificates from Smithsonian Folkways and they teach a class during Smithsonian Folkway’s annual course for music teachers held at St. Thomas University.

Learn more about Siama and Dallas in their June 2017 Artist Spotlight interview.

Program Offerings

Virtual Residency or Performance

Sing with Siama – Congolese Singing and Culture

During this engaging virtual program, Siama sings and plays acoustic guitar and traditional African instruments like mbira and balafon while Dallas Johnson sings, plays hand percussion and tells stories that bring Siama’s happy childhood to life. From the first moment, everyone is invited on a journey to rural DR Congo, moving to the rhythm and singing together under the stars in Lingala, Kikongo and English while learning fun African singing styles like call-and-response, layering, repeating, beat boxing and yodeling (yes!…yodeling). This charming program is a culturally-immersive experience and a big hit with audiences of all ages and abilities.

In-Person Workshop

Sing with Siama – Congolese Singing and Culture

During this engaging educational program, Siama sings and plays acoustic guitar and traditional African instruments like Mbira, Balafon and Lokole while Dallas Johnson sings, plays hand percussion and tells stories that bring Siama’s happy childhood to life. From the first moment, everyone is invited on a journey to rural Africa to move to the rhythm and sing together under the stars in Lingala, Kikongo and English while learning fun African singing styles like layering, repeating, call-and-response, beat boxing and yodeling (yes!…yodeling). This charming program is a culturally-immersive experience and a big hit with audiences of all ages and abilities.

Performances

Siama’s Solo Guitar

Siama’s entrancing acoustic guitar and mbira are a wonderful enhancement to a special event.  

Siama’s Congo Roots- Acoustic Duo or Trio

When Siama is joined by Dallas Johnson (singer/storyteller/hand percussionist) their harmonies are inspiring and their joy is contagious as they perform and encourage everyone to sing along. They can also perform as a trio, with the added musical excitement of a drummer.

Siama’s Congo Roots-5-piece jazz band

For festivals and concerts, Siama loves bringing balafon as well as Dallas, a drummer and also a bassist and keyboardist, electrifying his Congolese folk music and adding exciting flavors of jazz, funk and more.

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“It’s truly inspiring to see Siama work with children. He not only shares his great musical talent with them, but also generously provides the opportunity to creatively express themselves through music.”

Dayna Martinez, Vice President of Programming and Education, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
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“I’ve never been to the Congo, but after having Siama’s Afrobilly perform for our Early Childhood concert series, I feel like I got the chance to live there! I am so grateful for the time and care they took to put together a program that would not only entertain but educate and engage our children and their families.”

Ivory Doublette, Early Childhood Music Department, MacPhail Center for Music

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COMPAS is an arts education nonprofit that puts creativity in the hands of Minnesotans, regardless of their age, background, or skills. Based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area, COMPAS teaching artists deliver creative experiences and arts programming across Minnesota.

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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.