"You don't need feet to Dance..." the inspiring story of Sidiki Conde
At the age of fourteen, Sidiki Conde collapsed on his way to school, in Guinea. For several months, he was in a coma. The lack of adequate medical knowledge muddies the source of his illness; it may have been polio. When he finally returned to consciousness, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He became deeply depressed; suicide crossed his mind.
One night in a dream, a voice asked him, “Why you are so sad? You are still here. You have something to offer.” Inspired, Sidiki finally asked to be released from the hospital, and in the next few years gradually regained the function of his arms. He then completely reinvented himself: he learned to walk again, on his hands, and to bicycle, water-ski, and dance. Gradually, he added drumming, choreography, and composition to his resume, eventually playing gigs at Lincoln Center and with world-class musicians, like Youssou N’dour and Baaba Maal. In 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts named him a Fellow.
A few days shy of his fifty-second birthday, Sidiki has the arms and shoulders of an N.F.L. linebacker. He makes his living teaching music and playing in his band, Tokounou, as well as in the African-folk-pop trio Afro-Jersey, with Terre Roche of the Roches. And he is the subject of a documentary that opens tonight in Manhattan, “You Don’t Need Feet to Dance.”
He may also be the only paraplegic in New York City living in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment. Before Sidiki’s paralysis, he had not been musical. He got where he is today by the same force of will that powers him up five flights of stairs—he practiced constantly, at one point learned to play rhythms with rocks tied to his hands and wrists, and performed for several hours a day without stopping. As the music producer Roger Greenawalt put it, Sidiki’s “life force is considerable.”
To listen to in-depth discussion on the motives for this illuminating documentary and the complexities that accompanied its filming. Click on the link below.