Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Sidike Conde Does His Thing: You Don’t Need Feet to Dance
1985, Guinea was still a notoriously oppressive Socialist dictatorship. It was a terrible time and place to contract
polio, but such was the fate that befell Sidike Conde. Nonetheless, he became a world class
performer as a drummer and yes, a dancer.
Alan Govenar captures him in performance and going about his day-to-day
business on the streets of Manhattan in You
Don’t Need Feet to Dance (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.
the tutelage of his grandfather, Conde built up his arms and torso to the degree
he could get about on his hands. He was
even able to dance in an important rite-of-passage ceremony using his arms
instead of legs. That would actually be
the start of an incredible career.
has indeed performed with the likes of Youssou N’Dour and Salifa Keita. He has led his own ensembles and toured
internationally. Yet, like most
musicians, he essentially scrapes by living in New York. Apparently, his bread-and-butter work comes
from school assemblies and private workshops.
Govenar documents one of the latter such apartment gigs—a whole lot of
it, in fact.
is no question Conde is a laudable figure and a talented artist, who makes the
world around him a better place with his music and enthusiasm. However, with respect to Governar’s doc, that
regard only extends so far. Strictly
observational in his approach, Govenar spends far too much time at each stop on
Conde’s itinerary. After ten minutes at
a workshop, viewers are entitled to feel a tad antsy. We get it already.
N’Dour is probably the busiest performer on the planet, but some commentary
from someone of his stature would have really helped open the film up. Perhaps even more frustrating, the
performance footage, though ample, is never presented in a manner that allows
the audience to truly get caught up in the music. Still, jazz fans might be interested to know
Oz Noy performs on several of the tracks from Conde’s CD heard throughout the
Govenar certainly convinces us Conde is a great
guy, which is admittedly one measure of success. Yet on purely cinematic terms, You Don’t Need Feet to Dance is not so
remarkable. Recommended primarily for
rabid world music fans and Conde admirers, it opens tomorrow (3/22) at the Quad
Labels: Documentary, Sidike Conde