Mor Dogo Thiam (born 1941 in Kaolack, Senegal) is a Senegalese drummer, cultural historian, and entertainment consultant. His surname is pronounced "Chahm".
Born to a Toucouleur family of Quran scholars and a talibé of "Daara" schools, Thiam began his career as a mechanic on the Dioran boat in Lindian outside of Kaolack. The Lindian boat travelled across West Africa and Europe for nine months at a time. During his three-month vacation, he would spend his time drumming with the Théatre National Daniel Sorano in Dakar.
Thiam and his son Akon are part Dogon, an ethnic group of Mali.
At the first World Black Arts Festival in 1966, the Théatre National Daniel Sorano was invited by President Senghor to welcome distinguished guests arriving at Dakar's International Airport. At this event, Thiam was met by choreographer Katherine Dunham, who insisted that he join her in the United States to expand the African culture among the African-Americans, who were in the midst of a civil rights movement.
In 1968, Thiam arrived in the United States, settling in East St. Louis and teaching African Cultural Studies at Southern Illinois University. He met with civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Black Panthers, and Black Liberation group. Thiam played the djembe drum before their meetings in an attempt to reconnect African Americans with their spiritual ancestors in Africa. He worked with Lester Bowie, Freddie Hubbard, B.B. King, Don Pullen, Nancy Wilson, and the World Saxophone Quartet.
Thiam recorded his first album, Ndende Safarra, in 1974 with B.B. King and Nancy Wilson to help victims of an African drought. The group was invited by President Nixon to perform at the White House in Washington D.C.
In 1999, Thiam recorded his second album Back to Africa
In 1982, Thiam's group Sone was selected to perform at the opening of Walt Disney's EPCOT Center. Thiam became a consultant for Walt Disney Entertainment Operations, travelling with executives to find talent to perform at EPCOT's World Showcases and the first Lion King Broadway show in 1997.
Thiam has taught at UCLA, Southern Illinois, and Morris Brown College, and at schools in Europe, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Caribbean. In 2005, he started Darou Khafour, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Lac Rose, Bambilor, and surrounding villages in Senegal by working with imams, village leaders, and authorities.
In 2009, Thiam made the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and devoted his life to the development of Darou Khafour and building the Mor Thiam Learning Center International School (MTLC).
Thiam resides between Orlando and Dakar, Senegal, and is the father to singer Aliaune Badara Thiam, more popularly known as Akon.
Awards and honors
Thiam received awards for his service to African culture, including recognition by U.S. State Department in Washington D.C.; the United Nations; the State Department of Indonesia; and the Trinidad & Tobago Minister of Culture. He received a Lifetime Ambassador Award from Disney.
- Dini Safarrar (Drums of Fire) (Rite, 1973)
- Same Space with Hamiett Bluiett, DD Jackson (Justin Time, 1998)
- Join Us with Hamiett Bluiett, DD Jackson (Justin Time, 1999)
- Back to Africa (Justin Time, 1999)
With Ray Drummond
- Excursion (Arabesque, 1993)
- Continuum (Arabesque, 1994)
With Don Pullen
- Kele Mou Bana (Blue Note, 1992)
- Ode to Life (Blue Note, 1993)
- Sacred Common Ground (Blue Note, 1995)
- Live...Again: Live at Montreux (Blue Note, 1995)
- Andrew Cyrille, Ode to the Living Tree (Evidence, 1997)
- Jin Hi Kim, Komungo 'Round the World (Seoul, 1995)
- Ivo Perelman, Children of Ibeji (Enja, 1992)
- Renee Rosnes, Life On Earth (Blue Note, 2001)
- World Saxophone Quartet, Metamorphosis (Elektra Nonesuch, 1991)
- World Saxophone Quartet, Four Now (Justin Time, 1996)