Mor Thiam (born Mor Dogo Thiam in Kaolack , Senegal, 1941) 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, Mor began his working career as a mechanic on the Dioran boat located in Lindian, outside of Kaolack. The Lindian boat travelled across West Africa and Europe for 9 months at a time. During Mor’s 3 month vacation, he would spend his time drumming with Senegal’s ”Théatre National Daniel Sorano” in Dakar, which was a pivotal moment in his life.
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, Mor was spotted by the legendary choreographer Katherine Dunham, who insisted that he would join her in the United States to expand the African culture amongst the African Americans, who were in the midst of a civil rights movement.
In 1968 Mor arrived in the United States, settling in East St Louis, teaching African Cultural Studies at Southern Illinois University. During this time he met with many of America’s most prominent civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., Jessie Jackson, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Black Panthers and Black Liberation group. Mor would play the djembe drum before their meetings in an attempt to (re)connect African Americans with their spiritual ancestors in Africa.
Not only was Mor the link to Africa with the civil rights leaders but he also dedicated his musical career to creating awareness and expanding the African connection by making timeless music working with many Jazz and Blues greats, including Freddie Hubbard, Nancy Wilson, B.B. King and Lester Bowie, the World Saxophone Quartet and Don Pullen.
Mor recorded his first album in 1974, titled “Ndende Safarra” with B.B. King and Nancy Wilson in benefit of the victims of an African drought that year. This group of musicians were invited by President Nixon to perform at the White House in Washington DC. In 1999 he recorded his second album titled “Back To Africa”, both recordings have gained cult status and are highly sought after amongst music enthusiasts around the world.
Mor became the gateway for many African’s musical journey to the United States promoting live theatrical African drum and dance performances and concerts for his fellow Senegalese artists including Youssou Ndour, Salif Keita and Baaba Maal to share and teach the African culture.
In 1982, Mor’s group Sone was chosen to perform at the opening of Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center. Mor became a consultant for Walt Disney Entertainment Operations travelling with executives to seek out international talent to perform at EPCOT’s World Showcases and the first Lion King Broadway show in 1997. Mor is a beloved part of the Disney Family. To date his Musicians, The Royal Drums of Africa still perform Daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Mor received many awards for his service to African Culture including recognition by US State Department in Washington DC, United Nations, The State Department of Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago Minister of Culture and a Lifetime Ambassador award from the Disney Corporation. Mor taught across the United States universities including UCLA, Southern Illinois University and Morris Brown College and internationally across Europe, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Caribbean.
Over the past five decades, Mor has dedicated his life to various humanitarian causes. In 2005 he launched Darou Khafour a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Lac Rose/Bambilor and its surrounding villages in Senegal by working with local Imams, village leaders and authorities to provide an impactful service to the community at a grassroots level. Darou Khafour is a place of learning, prayer, wellness and peace of mind where all programs are inclusive and free.
In 2009 Mor made the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and has devoted his life to the development of Darou Khafour and building the Mor Thiam Learning Center International School (MTLC).
Mor currently resides between Orlando and Dakar, Senegal, and is the father to International superstar Aliaune Badara Thiam, more popularly known as AKON.
With Ray Drummond
- Excursion (Arabesque, 1993)
- Continuum (Arabesque, 1994)
With Don Pullen and the African Brazilian Connection
- Kele Mou Bana (Blue Note, 1991)
- Ode to Life (Blue Note, 1993)
- Live...Again: Live at Montreux (Blue Note, 1993)
With the World Saxophone Quartet
- Metamorphosis (Elektra Musician, 1990)
- Four Now (Justin Time, 1996)
- Nomad (AMI 1994) with Robert Mirabal