The drumming bus driver who made his own instrument with animal skin from the butcher’s shop

A drumming bus driver is one of three performing artists to be the first recipients of Sunderland Culture’s ‘New Encounters’ bursaries - with a little help from his local butcher.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 2:54 pm

Lacina “Lass” Diabate is originally from Bouaké, Ivory Coast, but is now a bus driver living in Sunderland and has driven for Stagecoach since 2006.

Lass arrived in the UK in 2002 and has been drumming for many years.

He will use his £500 grant to help develop the workshops he runs from home. Lass, 46, leads sessions on djembe and dundun as well as African folk dance. He also runs a community voluntary organisation called African Societal Artistique of Sunderland.

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Drumming bus driver Lass Diabate has won a £500 bursary to help run drumming workshops. Picture by Stu Norton.
Drumming bus driver Lass Diabate has won a £500 bursary to help run drumming workshops. Picture by Stu Norton.

Lass plans to run an open air event in Barnes Park, where he hopes to discover new talent and will showcase his own skills on a dundun he made himself.

He said: “I actually went to the butcher’s shop and asked him for the skin of a cow. I think he thought I was going to eat it.

"Then I got a small oil drum from the scrapyard. The rest came from B&Q. I watched YouTube for some guidance to make the drum.

“The passion for drumming came from where I grew up; especially my grandma’s cousin who used to play. I’ve still got that image of him in my head.

Lass Diabate has won a £500 bursary to help run drumming workshops. Picture by Stu Norton.

“The New Encounters bursary will allow me to run drumming workshops in the local community. If possible I’d like to organise a small-scale performance to showcase the skills developed by my groups.”

The bursaries were launched earlier in 2021 to help performing artists from Sunderland’s ethnically diverse communities. They are the result of more than a year’s research completed by Sunderland Culture and Sunderland Black and Minority Network (SBMEN).

The research mapped the diversity of Sunderland artists and found many groups and individuals struggling to realise their creative ambitions, due to insufficient resources, funding and support.

The other two performers to receive a £500 bursary are Maya Dhananjay and Stephen Elms.

Form left, drummer Lacina “Lass” Diabate, dance teacher Maya Dhananjay, head of performance at Sunderland Culture Helen Green and rapper and composer Stephen Elms.

Maya is currently studying a masters degree in events management at the University of Sunderland and teaches traditional Indian dance.

Stephen is a rapper and composer whose duo, He Knows She knows, appeared on X-Factor in 2016. He will use his bursary to write music about people’s experiences of lockdown.

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