Mandiani Rhythms! Drum & Dance!

Music and dance tell the social histories of people around the world. In West Africa, the passage to adulthood is often celebrated through drumming and dance practices based in Mandiani rhythms, known simply as “Mandiani.” African touring groups brought Mandiani (aka Mendiani, Manjani) to the United States, where it is a popular form of cultural expression among African American communities.

Emerson music students drum with teaching artist Keith Johnson.
Keith Johnson teaches Mandiani rhythms on djembe
Muslimah Hameed teaches Mandiani dance steps
Muslimah Hameed teaches Mandiani dance steps

The Mandiani Rhythms cultural education project engaged 15 artists over 2½ years in teaching and resource development.  Initiated by Cultural Arts Coalition teaching artists Muslimah Hameed and Keith Johnson the project was originally implemented as a residency at Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School, Phoenix, Spring 2021. The school Principal Nicholas Lodato welcomed the program, and music educator Dr. Dianne Anderson-Nickel, known to the students as “Dr. Music,” served as the school site project lead.


Dr. Music reflected on teaching during the first full academic year after the onset of COVID19:

"The primary challenge faced by the CAC and all grant participants was the onset of COVID19 and the resulting shutdown in nearly every way of life.  Schools were closed, meetings were canceled, and scheduled events were changed to 'TBD.'  As schools, organizations, and individuals adjusted to virtual meetings and instruction, artists and teachers worked tirelessly to provide instruction in meaningful ways that allowed students to interact in all activities and help each person understand themselves and other cultures. Three challenges that were encountered during the Mandiani Project were flexibility scheduling, fluid safety protocols, and delays from the need to develop and instruct with video materials. 

"'Mr. Keith' Johnson worked with 5th and 6th graders to teach a Mandiani (mun-JAH-nee) rhythm from West Africa.  Students learned a Mandiani song, three drumming patterns, and one bell pattern. The activities occurred outdoors with everyone masked."

Keith Johnson on Djembe
Keith Johnson on Djembe
Emerson Students Practice Mandiani

For dance, participants met in the cafeteria, and following safety protocols, were able to meet with Muslimah Hameed to learn Mandiani dance and its meaning. For both drumming and dance, students were provided with practice videos by the teaching artists.

muslimah = dianne with class


During the second pilot year at Emerson Elementary, the CAC collaborated with music educator Emily Flathers. Muslimah Hameed returned as teaching artist for dance and Darrin “Nomad” Jackson joined the team for Mandiani drumming instruction. COVID protocols were still in place, so drumming occurred outside and dance in the gym.


It became clear the first pilot year that the project could be delivered and accessible to more schools and communities with the addition of cultural resources. The Cultural Arts Coalition determined to develop high quality materials to support Mandiani instruction in the classroom and in community. 

Access our Cultural Resources

  • "Mandiani Rhythms! What is Mandiani?" A Short History & Performance
  • "Mandiani Rhythms! Drumming Instruction with Darrin 'Nomad' Jackson" for teachers
  • "Mandiani Rhythms! Drumming Practice for Students with Darrin 'Nomad' Jackson"
  • "Mandiani Rhythms! Dance Practice for Students with Muslimah Hameed"
  • "Mandiani Classroom Music Curriculum & Tips for Teachers" by Dr. Dianne Anderson-Nickel (2022), written for Arizona Standards
  • "Mandiani, Mendiani, Manjani" article by Darrin Jackson (2022)
  • "Mandiani Patterns & Sounds" by Darrin Jackson (2022)

Mandiani Video Shoot Day at Kiwanis Park


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