Chris Sylla from “Hands on Skin” leads Nyodema’s weekly drumming workshops. Chris has been teaching African drum and dance and performing for a number of years mainly in Brighton, West Sussex.
Chris was born in Stoke-On-Trent and although she has always loved singing and had a brief and disastrous relationship with the violin in childhood she came to music later in life. Having worked at the WOMAD world music festival for years and seen English people playing African drums she finally went to a class with a friend and was hooked.
She’s been playing for 9 years now, initially working with a variety of teachers in England. Drumbreaks (a style developed by Peter Scott) teachers such as Liz Carter, Ruth Jennie and Chris Garland were important in her early development, as was Simon Mc Carthy and she then went on to work with teachers of a more traditional West African style such as Fern Camera, Bucarr Ndow, Ali Bangora and Henri Gao Bi.
She took her first trip out to the Gambia to work with Masta Canon with Jambass music in 2001 and then went back regularly to study, at least once a year for three weeks.
As well as learning djembe and bass from Masta, Chris learned dance informally from a variety of sources with artistes in the Gambia; Babuccar, from Roots Manding and Pearr from Roots Kuntakinte being particularly helpful, both allowed her to dance with the troupes when she was out there. She played djembe as a ‘guest’ member of African Ballet for 4 months.
Chris went on to study balafon, a long-cherished desire of Chris’ with Seikou Soma, having 4 months intensive training in 2004 and then on periodic visits since. She also learned West African dance with Zaggaire in the Gambia and a variety of others in Guinea. Chris has done some collaborative work with Hullaballo Quire using balafon and voice. In England Chris is an original member of the Djembe Divas, a women’s’ drumming group based in Brighton.