Fara Tolno, President and Executive Director
He has created successful career, despite challenges as a professional West African dancer, drummer, teacher and director in the United States for the past twelve years. He has become well known as a leader, creator and organizer in the African dance community as well as in the professional music industry.
Self-Motivated, Visionary, Creative, Perseverant, Entrepreneur, Community Outreach, Energetic, Dedicated, Producer, Director, Choreographer and Accomplished Musician
Born in Guinea, West Africa, Fara spent his youth in the village of Kissidugu and Guinea’s capital city, Conakry. He began playing the djembe drum at the age of nine, performing in ensembles at the age of 15, including nine years as the lead drummer for Les Merveilles de Guinea (The Wonders of Guinea) under the tutelage of West Africa’s most influential director and choreographer, Kemoko Sano. This national ballet performed all around Africa and Europe, bringing Fara to the United States to perform in major theatres in 1998.
For the last fourteen years Fara has been in the United States sharing his culture, teaching, earning a MFA, and playing with musicians of all kinds. He has founded two different performance ensembles and teaches at numerous colleges and universities as well as teaching community drum and dance classes for students of all levels.
Fara founded Project Drum, which is an organization focused on bringing West African music and dance into schools (and other organizations) by working with students, training teachers and performing in schools. Fara has provided access to the rhythms and dance of Guinea through the Rhythm Reference Project (an online library) and Camp Merveilles, an annual nationwide music and dance conference, both of which he founded.
Fara completed his Master of Fine Arts in dance at the University of Colorado in 2012. He has taken this knowledge and found ways to relate and merge the art forms of dance and music from West African and the Western world. Fara shares this new and innovative perspective when teaching in community and university classes, and training members of his ensemble and companies.
His energetic and compassionate teaching style makes him one of the most sought after drum and dance instructors in the United States. As a solo artist, Fara has performed with many of the world’s premier musicians including Mamady Keita, Burning Spear, Neil Young, Sekouba Bambino, BB King, Otis Taylor, Joe Cocker, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Habibe Koite, and many more. He has been a member of many different bands and assisted with many musical recording projects and shows throughout the nation. Fara’s performance style has been described as “mystical” as he dazzles audiences around the world.
Michál Anna Carrillo, Vice President, Treasurer and Development Director
She has had a dynamic and results oriented career in dance, healing arts, education, community affairs and promotion over the past 17 years. Proven accomplishments in organizing events and developing successful programs and business as an entrepreneur.
Problem Solver, Business Developer, Self-Motivated, Team Builder, Creativity, Public Speaking, Healing Arts, Community Outreach, Producer, Director and Choreographer
Michal is a holds a BA from The University of Washington, and first started studying West African dance at that time. She has studied West African dance with a variety of master teachers, many of whom she has hosted on the Big Island of Hawaíi, where she resides.
As founder and director of Lavaroots Performing Arts in 2002, based in Hawaii, she teaches West African dance, Salsa, Hip Hop and Creative Movement, and her company has performed island wide for the past 14 years. As a professional dancer she has performed in many island productions, including resort entertainment for corporate events. In 2008 – 2009 she performed in, directed and produced “Blend”, which performed multiple “full house” shows on the Big Island of Hawaíi. In October 2013 & October 2014, Lavaroots Performing Arts and Fara Tolno presented the dance theatrical work called “Yankady, Here is Good?” at the Kahilu Theatre and Hilo Palace Theatre. Additionally, Kissidugu and Lavaroots are in their fifth year of hosting the annual Camp Merveilles Hawaii Dance & Drum Conference on the Big Island, started in 2013.
Ms. Carrillo has been a Teaching Artist in schools in the state of Hawaii since 2006, teaching grades K-8, reaching an average of 400 students per year. She is in her tenth year as Director of The Summer Arts program, hosted at Kahilu Theatre for the last nine years, and in it’s new home for it’s 10th year anniversary at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. Summer Arts brings performing arts and natural sciences to the youth in an exciting format, culminating in a theatrical presentation.
Michál is also a licensed Massage Therapist and has worked in the healing arts for the last eighteen years. She fuses healing work and dance together in a unique and compelling way, allowing her students and clients to peel the layers away and reveal the brilliancy within; and is committed to the expression of one’s true self through movement and culture.
Michál joined the board of Kissidugu in beginning of 2013 and is passionate and deeply commited to the Guinea school vision, clean water campaign, and overall wellness for the people of Guinea.
Karen Alvarado, Secretary
Forty years business experience in corporate business ownership, natural medicine with sales and marketing expertise. She is passionate about the cultural arts, music and dance. She is excited to be part of the Kissidugu Foundation Board of Directors and is dedicated to helping make a difference.
OUR OUTREACH TEAM:
On Site Project Director: Aboubacar Soumah
Aboubacar Soumah is responsible for the day to day business of Kissidugu Foundation on location in Guinea, West Africa. He is Kissidugu’s right hand man and efficiently manages our construction team, the building process & maintanence, and local community affairs.
Media & Research Coordinator: Mary Beth Flemming.
Mary Beth Flemming lives to pursue passionate work that aids humanitarian and environmental efforts. She teaches environmental education programs with youth ranging ages 5-17, as well as creative arts and movement through avenues of yoga and hands on learning in natural settings. She has a Bachelors Degree of Business Administration with minors in both Environmental Studies and Spanish. Mary Beth has worked and works with other non-profits as a project manager for the Mahalo ‘Aina give back to the Forest initiative on the Big Island of Hawaii. She was the first international volunteer for the Surfer Kids Non-Profit in Mossel Bay South Africa, creating the first volunteer outreach after school program in the village of Friemershiem consisting of yoga, surfing, gardening and English classes for primary student youth and community members in marginalized communities. She is also a global ambassador for project SERES, empowering youth in Guatemala for a sustainable future. Mary Beth is beyond delighted to be heading up the research and development committee for the Kissidugu School of Music, Dance & Education. Traveling to Guinea and being a part of the school in Bel Air and helping to provide basic needs to community members as well as aid in perpetuating the culture and adding to the sustainable vision of the school is Mary’s main collaborative focus. Mary Beth is working to build her “Being the Balance – WholeSelf Nourishment project” and aims to incorporate much of the work she does around wellness within the Kissidugu School project as well. You can contact her via her website www.beingthebalance.com or by emailing beingthe[email protected]
Big thanks to the Kissidugu family for holding such a beautiful vision and working together to create meaningful change!
Onye Ozuzu, Education programs consultant
Onye Ozuzu is a performing artist, choreographer, educator and researcher. Her body of work fuses modern dance, West African dance, Japanese and Chinese martial arts, yoga, improvisational performance, literature and cultural studies. She has been actively making and performing work since 1997. Her work has been seen nationally and internationally at The Joyce Soho (Manhattan, NY), Kaay Fecc Festival Des Tous les Danses (Dakar, Senegal), La Festival del Caribe (Santiago, Cuba), Lisner Auditorium (Washington DC) among others. Ongoing projects include Sambo’s Sister, an exploration into the iconography of blackface minstrelsy and its intersection with ancient and contemporary mythologies; The Technology of the Circle, a group performance improvisation process; ADADIA African Drum and Dance in America, a web- based ethnographic collection of oral histories. Up-coming projects include vigorous engagement with interdisciplinary collaboration and feature works with painter
Michael Dixon, filmmaker Stephanie Kobes, conductor Fred Peterbark, and aerialist Nancy Smith of Frequent Flyers.
Onye is currently serving as Chair of the Dance Department at Columbia University in Chicago,IL. .
Construction Layout Design Contributor: Melody Miller.
Assisting in sustainable construction design techniques and materials. Education: 3rd Year in the Construction Management Degree Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, with an emphasis on Sustainability. Minor in Business Management.Job History: 13 years of experience in Organic Farming and Landscape Construction and Maintenance; 1 1/2 Years Vertical Construction, project coordinator.
Projects: $5.6 Million dollar maintenance station in Seward, Alaska; $2.8 million dollar addition and remodel of a Court House in Palmer Alaska. Related Community Involvement: $26,000 Proposal for the Construction of a Green Wall at the University of Alaska Anchorage.