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Thiam, a member of the Dogon ethnic group, played drums from before the age of eight and had begun playing professionally by age 12. His surname, Thiam, means "historian" in his native tongue, and he comes from a family whose members use drums to tell the story of Senegal's Wolof people. His instruments include tama, sabar, and djembe.
Thiam settled in the United States in 1968, at the invitation of the choreographer Katherine Dunham. He settled in St. Louis, where he worked with Dunham and with the Black Artists' Group (BAG), a multidisciplinary arts collective. He has maintained homes in Atlanta and Dakar since the mid-1990s.
In 1973 and 1974 he performed with the jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and has also performed and recorded with the World Saxophone Quartet. He toured Europe with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company (1989). He has also performed and recorded with the cross-cultural ensemble No World Improvisations, with Jin Hi Kim and Joseph Celli.
Thiam regularly serves as a consultant for many African projects around the United States and serves as the executive director of the Stone Mountain, Georgia-based Institute for the Study of African Culture.
Mor Thiam is the father of R&B singer Akon. Thiam's wife is named Kine Gueye Thiam. She is a dancer who came to the United States in 1972. Thiam's son with Kine, Akon (born Aliaune Thiam), is an R&B singer.
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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
- Nomad (AMI 1994) with Robert Mirabal
- Mor Thiam page on Justin Time Records
- Mor Thiam discography at Discogs
- Mor Thiam page on AfricanChorus.org
- Mor Thiam page on L'Observatoire Leonardo des Arts et des Techno-Sciences
- "Mor Thiam: Maverick Drummer Extraordinaire", from The Voice of African Music, a newsletter of the St. Louis African Chorus, v. 5, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 1998)