Thomas Guei is a master drummer, as well as a dancer, choreographer and actor.
He received his formal training at the Ecole de Danse et d’Echanges Culturels (EDEC) in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Upon completion of his technical degree in arts, he became a drumming teacher at EDEC as well as at international schools in Abidjan such as the French and American High Schools. He choreographs dancing and drumming performances and has been invited to lead drumming and dance workshops in Europe. Starting at EDEC at the age of seven, Thomas joined the school’s company “Les Guirivoires” on several tours throughout the world, including numerous countries in Africa, Europe, the United States and Asia.
Born in 1978 in Abobo to a family of traditional musicians and dancers, Thomas played his first instrument, the gloé, when he was four years old to accompany his father who was a traditional dancer. Studying the traditional rhythms of his own ethnic group, the Guerré, as well as those of other ethnic groups throughout Ivory Coast and Africa, Thomas learned to play an array of percussion instruments, including the gloé, tamanois, djembé, dounouba, balafon, bolon, attoungblan, etc. His instrument of choice is the tamanois and djembé, musical instruments of the proud warriors of the Africa. The djembé can be played alone or in the tamanois style of his native village, Man. This style is played on two, three or four small drums strapped to the sides of a djembe
Although deeply influenced by tradition, Thomas is also a product of today’s modern, globalized era. Thus his creative work is constantly evolving based on new influences he encounters. In 2000, Thomas spent a half-year in Evry, France, at the Ecole National de Musique et de Danse to lead two drumming workshops and to choreograph and present two performances. During his stay in France, he worked with a number of dancers and musicians from companies from around the world, including Erol Josue’s Shango Company (from Haiti), MétisSons Company led by Viviana Amodeo and Kossua Ghiamphy, and Kassia’s Nassa Company. His work with these groups constituted a process of cultural exchange in which both sides learned from the other.
Inspired by this mixture of traditional and modern influences on his art, Thomas has teamed up with numerous modern musicians in Abidjan, bringing the traditional djembé into recording studios and to concerts to accompany musicians such as Kajeem, Petit Yodé and l’Enfant Siro, Espoir 2000, Bomou Mamadou, Abraham Mussa, Petit Denis, etc.
In 1999, Thomas co-starred in the movie “Bronx-Barbés”, from French director Eliane de Latour. The film, which received honorable mention at the 2000 Locarno Festival, depicts the struggle of life in the ghettos of Abidjan. Tapping into his musical talents, Thomas also co-wrote the film’s original score, which was recorded in Paris.
Performing on stage, directing artists and groups, and teaching students are the ways that Thomas has found to communicate and to share his talents. He firmly believes that teaching percussion in schools, universities, and centers of art and culture throughout the world can play an important role in promoting a continued blending of cultures.
In 2015 he released his first album “Guelassemou”.