WonLande Dance & Drum Company
WonLande West African Dance and Drum Company is an organization founded with the purpose of preserving and promoting African culture and communal values through the performing and teaching of traditional West African music and dance.
This company strives to broaden the understanding of African music as not only a means of entertainment but as a cultural entity which promotes the individual’s and the community’s life-long development and vitality by encouraging unity, morality, and positive social values.
Founder and director, Mario McIntee began drumming in 2001 after seeing a performance of West African drummers and dancers while studying in Grenoble, France.
"I saw their performance and I was completely blown away. I decided then that when I returned to the U.S., I would find a teacher so that I could learn to play the drum like that." After returning to Atlanta, a quick internet search led him to master drummer Mohamed Diaby, director of Africa Sogaye in Atlanta and former member of Les Merveilles dâ€™Afrique.
"To be honest," says Mario "before meeting Mohamed, I knew very little about Guinea. I quickly learned that it was not only the birthplace of the djembe drum, but has also been the ancestral home of the fabled empires of Mali and Songhay. This djembe drum gave me an entrance into an African culture with an extensive and impressive history. As an African American I can’t tell you how much that meant to me." Mario and Mohamed began a relationship that has continued up until to this day.
After moving to Houston in 2003 and realizing the need as well as the community interest for an authentic West African dance instructor, Mario began to court Mohamed Diaby for a possible relocation.
â€œI began to have meetings at my house to see who would be interested in starting a group and to see how we could support a full time master instructor in Houston. The interest was there, the support was there, and finally Mohamed agreed.â€
In April 2005, WonLandÃ© West African Dance and Drum Company was born. The title is a phrase in Mohamedâ€™s maternal language of Susu and it means â€œLetâ€™s Come Togetherâ€.
â€œThe title is fitting for us,â€ says Mario, â€œbecause African music is all about bringing people together.â€