LEAF International | Ivory Coast

Founded in 2017 |Located in Abidjan, Ivory Coast|100+ Youth Served

Why Ivory Coast? Adama and Dramane Dembele are 33rd generation musicians from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Adama Demebele resides in Asheville, NC and his brother, Dramane resides in Ivory Coast. On January 12, 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, and there is 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 Community Arts is partnering with Dramane Dembele to provide West African Drum & Dance traditions to the community.

“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”
LEAF International Culture Keeper, Dramane Dembele

See the Program in Action
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 Adama Dembele to support the continuation of West African Drum and Dance classes in Ivory Coast.

This LEAF International program includes:

  • Daily rehearsals in the morning and afternoon w/ different dance and drum instructors for each rehearsal. Each rehersal focuses on traditional West African dance and drumming.
  • Monthly Community Performances
  • Meals for youth between rehearsals
  • Rehearsals in Ivory Coast and MaliIMG_1554



Program Goals
In 2016, the Dembele family raised enough funds to purchased land in Mali. However, there is still no formal education center. Currently, the youth and community practice anywhere they can, even in the streets. Our 20/20 program goals and vision includes:
  • Dormitory-style rooms for youth and community. Include lockers for valuable personal items. This will create a space for cross-cultural interaction between Ivory Coast and Mali
  • Communal shower and bathroom area for guests, close to, or connected to the dorm area. 
  • Covered outdoor performance area, with room for spectators.
  • Covered outdoor, or indoor, rehearsal space. 
  • Safety: tall cement walls around the border of the compound, with a large locking gate large enough to fit a motor vehicle. 

Through this program, students and community members gain:

  • Weekly traditional West African dance & drum classes
  • Meals for those in need
  • Training in valuable skill development that could lead to future work in the field
  • Self-esteem and pride at keeping their traditions alive
  • Discipline skills
  • Community building through cultural arts
Meet the Culture Keeper

LIDrame1Dramane Dembele:

Dramane Dembele is a 33rd generation djembe player and teacher from Ivory Coast, West Africa. The first teacher and performer of his generation, Dra commands the full array of African drums- doundoun, sangbang, kinkine. His in-depth knowledge of West African rhythms, and the dances that accompany them, makes Dra one of the most respected culture-keepers in all of Ivory Coast. 
Over his 30+ year career as a performer and teacher, Dra has directed and produced over a dozen traditional drum and dance groups around Ivory Coast’s largest city of Abidjan. Hundreds of professional players have come from all over West Africa, including Burkina Faso and Mali, to study specifically with Dra. Also known as “The General” for his command of all things musical and cultural, Dra even brought the djembe into the recording studio with numerous big name African artists. 
Dra began studying music at an early age from his grandfather and father, playing and studying for hours on end. By the time he was 18, his mentors had both passed, and Dra found himself as the head of the household. He taught his younger brothers everything he knew, and soon became a father figure to them as well as to young orphans and homeless children in their village. They would come to the Dembele house, later known as “Djembeso,” or “house of djembe,” to learn about their Ivorian culture- music, dance, and language. 
When they came of age, Dra encouraged his brothers to travel and share their culture with the rest of the world. As they traveled, however, Dra never felt he could leave Ivory Coast, with dozens of family and friends depending on him. He remains in Ivory Coast to this day, teaching and sharing his vast knowledge with local children, travelers, and professional drummers from around the globe. 

Program Highlights


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.


From music instruments to child sponsorships, our people-centered programs depend on generous givers like you to grow and thrive. Donate today! 100% of your gift goes directly to support music and arts education programs in the country of your choosing.

Djembeso Support:
Now that land has been purchased we can move into phase 2 of the project. We are relying on support to make this happen. Please consider making a monetary contribution to help the Dembele family rebuild. Checks payable to LEAF Community Arts, memo Rebuild Dembele.
What’s Needed?
We need to raise $20,000 to rebuild the Djembeso Drum & Dance Education Center.
  • PHASE 1: Purchase Land
  • PHASE 2: Dembele Community Center/Compound
  • PHASE 3: Student Dormitories

CONTACT International@theLEAF.org for more information on how you can support the Dembele Education Center!