Demba, also known by his artistic name Dembis Thioung, is a mesmerizing master of the dunduns - the melodic and hypnotic West African bass drums. The traditional West African Dundun, are a set of three double sided drums hit with sticks made by wood and cowskin that make up the HEARTBEAT, the MELODY and the SOUL of traditional West African ensemble djembe music.
As the child of a Serer Griot mother (a hereditary caste among the peoples of Western Africa whose function is to keep an oral history of the tribe or village and to entertain with stories, poems, songs, dance) and a Peul/Fula Laube father (drum maker and wood workers caste), he was born in Dakar in 1986. Dembis was introduced to the art of traditional and contemporary Senegalese musical techniques by following his mother - a professional dancer - to rehearsals and performances since birth. He started making drums at a very young age (12 years old) and continued his musical apprenticeship at the prestigious Blaise Senghor Centre Culturel, led by Djioncounda Ndaye, and at the popular Fass quarter in Senegal. The time spent with these illustrious companies pushed his innate talent further and he is now recognized by his contemporaries as being a professional and adept thiounguiste (percussionist), who has refined his knowledge of the Dundun, Djembe, Sabar and Asico drums.
Dembis identifies as part of the Senegalese Baye Fall Brotherhood movement lead by Cheikh Ibrahim Fall who was one of the first disciples of Cheikh Ahamdou Bamba, the man who led a powerful non violent spiritual revolution following the oppressive ruling of the French coloners. Their teachings and prayers has shaped completely Dembis’ doings and drum teachings.
Dembis came to the UK in 2010, whilst on tour with Ballet Daradji. Since then he has been in high demand, both as a performer and a teacher and has created a wide net of artistic connections with African artists of the diaspora. He has worked for a number of companies, including Irineu Nogueira’s Afro-Brazilian Dance Company ABEIE who has travelled with all over Europe and the Caribbean, where Dembis was a core member. Akomaasa Performing Arts Academy lead by Akosua Boaye, where he played for her weekly classes at the Canterbury Christ Church University. He has taught drumming to adults and to children in schools in partnership with Landing Mane (Jamo Jamo Arts) and Remi Uzdras (Bolomba Arts). Furthermore, he also freelances for the following West African dance artists: Aida Diop (traditional West African dance, Senegal), Almamy Camara (traditional Guinean dance, Guinea), Batch Gueye (Sabar dance and Baye Fall Chanting, Senegal) and Alesandra Seutin (Germaine Acogny Technique, SouthAfrica/Belgium/UK), Diene Sagna (Sabar dance, Senegal/Germany), Ofelia Omoyele Balogun (Afro Diasporic Dance of the Caribbean Heritage to Contemporary, Nigeria/Italy/UK), Adriano Oliveira (Afro Brazilian Dance, Brasil/UK), Salif Camara (Guinean Traditional Dance, Guinea/UK), Mor Ngom Sabar Sabar Rekk (Sabar dance company based in Sweden/Senegal), Akeim Toussaint Buck (Contemporary dance, Jamaica/UK), Mbaye Art (Sabar dance in Denmark/Senegal) and played amongst talented Drummers: Alai Sanfo Touma (Burkina Faso/UK), Nahini Doumbia (Mali/UK) + Moussa Dembele (Burkina Faso/UK) + Marcos Santana / Tribo Band (Afro Brazilian Percussion, Brazil/UK), Cheikh Diop (Senegal/UK percussion), Mohamed Gueye ( Senegal/UK percussion), Yahael Camara Onono (Senegal, Nigeria/UK, perscussion).
Dembis hosts, amongst other activities, a two weekly Dundun Drum+Dance Circle at The V1llage in Portobello (W10), a community space where he is a leader member dedicated to the healing and reparatory justice of the black community. One of the sessions is called PENCHMI, initiated during covid days. Penchmi is a wolof word that describes the gathering of the ancestors, timeless/spaceless, an alternate reality where to discuss all matters of life, justice, peace but most of all to remind us all of the LOVE and RESPECT it must be shared amongst each other. In these sessions participants are encouraged to connect with themselves and each other through sound, movement, and the wisdom of spirit of the ancestral drums. The sessions also offer the space to gather and interact as a community and sometimes they also take place in natural spaces (local parks) allowing the participants to connect with the intelligence of nature. During summer days Dembis opens a circle every Sunday at Roundwood Park (NW10). At the V1llage Dembis has created links with other artists and collaborated at several events: the weekly Sunday Drum Call, the monthly Afrikan Revolution concerts run by Asheber, as well as joined gatherings that bring awareness to the Zimbabwean FREE NEHANDA movement, assisted in community memorials, as well as collaborated in the elder blessing act at the Libation Cerimony hosted by the ANCESTRAL FUTURES event in September 2021. He has also created an instrument clinic to build, fix and repair different kind of African drums. Dembis also run a monthly drum circle supporting the refugee & migrant centre West London Welcome.
Dembis has organised five annual editions of the Dundun Drum & Dance workshop series, a successful event that gathers dance and drum masters and students from all over the country, ages and levels. Dembis is also a versatile independent performing artist and has played live, and recorded albums with internationally acclaimed artists such as Baaba Maal and Carlou D, as well as collaborated with Film Composer Harry Escott recording the main soundtrack theme for the second season of the FOX TV Series “Deep Estate”. Most recently, in July 2022, Dembis performed for the second sold out run of the acclaimed theatre play SAMSKARA written and directed by award winning artist Lanre Malaolu, hosted at the The Yard theatre in Hackney, a deeply moving and transformative play about the Black male experience in Britain.
Dembis’s aptitude for music, means that his skills as a percussionist are not reserved for West African rhythms alone, and he is able to, and is keen on working with artists from other global musical backgrounds. He collaborates regularly with Venezuelan singer Luzmira Zerpa (lead singer of Family Atlantica) on duet performances, he also has worked in a project with the Brazilian singer and songwriter Nina Miranda (worldly known for her hit “Underwater Love”). Dembis has contributed with his percussion on the recording of the first debut solo album of Noga Ritter, an eclectic singer-songwriter, band leader and workshop facilitator whose music fuses Hebrew Jazz with global grooves as well.