Funky Berlin: The Young African Art Market Serves As A Gathering Place For World Musicians

May 12, 2017

An orange crochet bucket hat bobs through the crowd. Calls of “Hey Jimmy!” follow him. He pauses to bump fists and shake hands. A drum is slung over his shoulder as he strolls through across the sandy beach at the Young African Art Market. His easy smile and demeanor are as cool as the March evening air.

"Yes, my name is Abo, but everybody is calling me Jimmy."

Jimmy Sanno is a drum instructor at the Young African Art Market, or YAAM, in Berlin. He's been giving drum lessons there since 2012. But he was surrounded by drums from a young age.

"Oh, drumming, you know is those things when I was young I've been having; we've been playing drums where I come from in Gambia. Anywhere, everyday you hear drum. Every corner, every night and day."

Jimmy’s group plays on a variety of West African drums. There’s the...


And the...


And the...

"...Kinkame," Sanno explains.

The dim room goes absolutely still. Then, Jimmy starts the opening beat.

The rest of the drummers join in.

Jimmy closes his eyes and calls out a joyful melody.

A student picks up a bagpipe. He returns Jimmy's song.

The drummers let out cheers when the song ends. Jimmy opens his eyes. The air in the room buzzes with excitement.

"I take my energy there. I put out my bad energy and take some good energy. I go somewhere else with the drum and it lets me in so many places. You have to beat something and say DAMN! Beat on the table or DAMN beat your feet down. It is all about music - it is all about drumming. When I feel sad, I have to beat the drum. When I feel good, I have to beat the drum," Sanno expresses.

"I think that's probably with nicest thing you can do with people - either play music with them or dance with them."

That’s Richard Pohl, the bagpipe player.

"They come from a lot of places actually. We have some Caribbeans, some Africans; last time there was a Japanese guy, Italians, Germans. I think it's the beautiful aspect of the human condition to be able to have music to connect ourselves," says Pohl.

"Berlin is international. This is why I am in love with it. Drum is not for one; it is for everybody. In every culture [there] is drumming - everybody is playing the drum," says Sanno.

Jimmy is bringing West African drumming to Berlin. He's also bringing it to his two-year-old son.

"He is a star already. He’s two years old but he's a star. He can beat to what even 20 years people can't beat to, I tell you this," Jimmy tells me.

Jimmy’s son climbs on his lap as he drums, but Jimmy doesn’t miss a beat. Lost in the music, Jimmy and his drummers beat on.