Urban Foli is a musical theater performance group that expresses traditional African drumming and dance bridged with contemporary sound and movements. Urban Foli uses ethnomusicology to cultivate a mixture of West African and African American percussion and culture.

Under ancient tradition, each ethnic/tribal group or percussionist develops their own sound; Urban Foli encourages its members to combine ancient teachings with the evolution of R&B and hip-hop culture and sound. The goal is not only to preserve traditional music and history, but to continue the legacy of percussion and movement that has been passed down in the Americas. The group’s mission is to expose as many as possible to the fusion of mainstream contemporary music and culture with ancient African beats, movement and sounds.

CONTACT >

T: 443-986-3289

E: booking@urbanfoli.com

Class Location: 1634 Guilford Ave. Baltimore MD 21214 (Lanvale St., Entrance)

© 2019 by Urban Foli Djembe Orchestra Performing Arts Inc. Webmaster Be Light Media LLC

MEET THE FOUNDER

Menes Yahudah, President/CEO 

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Menes Yahudah, an artist and Cultural Arts educator, West African drumming career has span over 35 years. He is a 1994 graduate of Baltimore City College and received the 2006 Maryland Apprenticeship Grant and became an OSI-Baltimore Community Fellow in 2015, for his project "Muze It Festival".

At the tender age of two, Menes began drumming with his father and Baltimore’s Druid Hill “Park Vibe”.  He later began his professional career as a drummer for the Sankofa African Dance Theater in Baltimore Maryland.  Over the years, he has continued to perform with numerous professional companies and ensembles. In 2006, after devoting 15 years in apprenticeship to Baile McKnight [a Master Drum Craftsman, Drummer, Folklorist, and Educator], Menes received the Maryland Apprenticeship Grant through the Maryland State Arts Council. Menes also spent many years studying under, Master Drummer Mamady Keita, Guinea West Africa (and other village drummers during his numerous visits to the continent of Africa).

Menes has written and directed musical experiences including When the Moon Cries, which explores the evolution of African-American relationships on a multi-media scale. 

 

A strong advocate for merging education and the Arts, Menes was the Director of Music and Folklore at Nsoroma Academy for Holistic Thought. He is the former Director of Musicology at The Living Well. He was a leadership consultant and mentor with OBI (Our Boys Institute) Baltimore. He teachers weekly community drum classes, to nurture and stimulate artistic, personal, and professional development. Menes became an OSI-Baltimore Fellow, being awarded for his drum therapy program called "Muze It Festival". The program operates in partnership with the Y of Central Maryland, charter and private schools. 

 

Menes is the co-director of the annual Baltimore Rhythm Festival. Fellow organizers of the 2014 Baltimore Rhythm Festival said this, “Menes represents the pinnacle of virtuosity as an artist within the Mande djembe tradition.  Menes is attempting to craft a new approach to African traditions amongst the American born, infusing respect for and deep study of African cultures with application of the principles and aesthetics of this culture to his own time and place.” 

 

Menes Yahudah is noted among professional drummers in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Menes has spent extensive time in the African countries such as: Guinea, Senegal, Gambia and the Ivory Coast, for the purpose of both performance and study.  He has also travelled internationally to Asia and the Caribbean.

 

 

Menes has performed or collaborated with the likes of Mamady Keita, Omar Penne, Djimo Kouyate, Baile McKnight, Mahiri Fadjimba Keita, Maria Broom, Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Sweet Honey and The Rock, Famoudou Konate, and Papa Ladji Camari.

 

Menes is the founder and director of Urban Foli, a member of Farafina Kan and a certified instructor with the Tam Tam Mandingue Djembe Academy.

What People are Saying...

 "...[Menes] has shown exceptional focus to details, while gleaning new perspectives...From the beginning of his work within our organization, he presented himself with a high level of integrity."

Baba Baile McKnight

Owner, Baile's African Drum Works

"Deeply spiritual his playing is sophisticated and truly artistic...I hold a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, conducted fieldwork in Nigeria for over a year, co-founded the Maryland State Arts Council's Maryland Traditions Program, co-founded and helped revive the Baltimore Rhythm Festival, and have been playing hand drums for over thirty years. In that time I have had the blessing of hearing and getting to know dozens of gifted African drummers. Menes stand apart for his inventive but deeply grounded creativity, and the passion and transcendence of his musical voice. Deeply spiritual his playing is sophisticated and truly artistic. His knowledge of African music and culture, particularly for the Mande traditions he has become of, is accurate and authoritative. Rooted in this heritage, he consciously and powerfully brings the fruits of this tradition to his very contemporary and engaged artistic and cultural activism in the city of Baltimore. Menes would be a superbly deserving recipient of the Baker Award at the highest level."

Rory Turner, Ph.D.

Goucher College, Assistant Professor

"Menes carries with him the spirit of collectivism and the intense desire to teach...Menes has been working with Nsoroma for over four years as our drum teacher. Through his extensive study and experience in West African drumming, dance, ceremony and culture, Menes carries with him the spirit of collectivism and the intense desire to teach. This is exemplified in the way he works with our children, who range in age from four to ten years old. Under Menes’ tutelage, each student has grown in confidence as a musician and performer. He holds children to a high standard, understanding that it would be a disservice to ‘water down’ the experience of learning challenging musical rhythms and trains students to confidently express their knowledge to an audience."

Kenyatta Macon-Moon

Director, Nsoroma Academy for Holistic Thought

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