Remembering Your Ancestral Fire, a book by M. TAYLOR (published 2023)

After many years of meandering through the process of creating my first book, Covid isolation provided time and focus to finally finish!
In my own words “…writing [Remembering Your Ancestral Fire] has been a way to make sense out of those things I cannot escape. It is the result of many years of experiences, sitting at the feet of African Masters, growing up bi-racial, finding/cultivating your purpose in life, trips around the world, sharing stories, composing “Africanesque” folktales, and making observations…it is definitely not just about the West African djembe drum.”

“Taylor’s folktales draw from his experiences with me and his times in Africa. They contain the stuff of folktales of old. They are a wonderful interpretation of African tradition.”
Grand Master Drummer Mamady Keïta

“Taylor’s a nice guy. In this world, that means he’s sometimes been overlooked. Look closer, and we recognize his gentle fierceness about his art and his craft, and his students. He is the sum of his experiences, and is brave enough to not hide that—a rare courage. He’s got good hands, too: tasteful, technically correct, deep, and controlled. He is also humble about his expertise; another rarity. Honor the teacher!
I first met Taylor at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I was there working with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, doing percussion, banjo, uke, and dance. We had spoken in the Old Town halls, earlier, and then, when I heard the sound of hand drumming, I had to check it out. I then peeked—or did he invite me?—into one of his djembe classes. The beginners were, as beginners do, loudly flailing away, but Taylor was hospitable and cool, and warm to me; I appreciated that he’d read my book, The Drummer’s Path, many years before, so we had another point in common. As work brought me back to Chicago, we spoke more. I observed how his warmth and innocence belies his depth of knowledge, and his disarming charm makes it easy for the shallow to miss the talent and power in front of them. I continue to be impressed.
I came up in the Old School drum tradition, where corporal and audio-violent “teaching methods” were the norm. So, I am also impressed by the fact that this person in no way acts as in the military-discipline, heavy-handed mold of the drum masters I grew up with, and apprenticed under, and is totally successful.
There’s a lot Taylor brings to the table to appreciate, and learn. We hope you get your chance.You will find it’s worth it.”
Sulé Greg Wilson, Author, Educator, Raconteur, and Musician

“In this powerful, thoughtful, far-reaching book, Taylor teaches how play-ing the djembe not only teaches discipline and creates incredible music, but can change your life. Reading his story was an unexpected treat that will stay with me for years to come.”
Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD and Award-Winning Author of Kawbawgam:The Chief, The Legend, The Man and The Best Place

“Taylor’s account of the sound of the djembe echoing his life’s calling is a remarkable saga of initiation, blending his inspired folk tales with African travel and pragmatic instruction. This is a book not only for drum enthusiasts, but seekers after ancestral wisdom.”
Dick Russell, Author of My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism

“Acquiring knowledge in the world is a path one cannot avoid. However, seeking knowledge is a path traveled by choice and commitment. I consider myself fortunate for many reasons, not the least of which is that my chosen path intersected with Michael Taylor’s. It is my sincere hope that everyone’s chosen path is enhanced as mine has been by Taylor’s humanity, friendship, life experience, and his commitment to seeking verified knowledge of the Djembe and the culture therein. “
— Matthew Henry, Music Professor and Professional Musician

“Wow. This book is more than just about playing a drum. It is a powerful life story that teaches about community, connection to our ancestors, purpose for our youth, and overall meaning in life. Readers will have a multicultural experience that will take them to multiple continents and then back to themselves. Well done, Michael Taylor!”
Patrick Snow, Publishing Coach and International Bestselling Author of Creating Your Own Destiny and The Affluent Entrepreneur

“I have been a teacher for over 30 years (both university and high school) and have known Taylor for nearly that long. “Teacher” is what comes to mind when I think of Taylor.  He has always been a teacher to me — not just about drumming but about the cultivation of the personal qualities it takes to be great at one’s calling. Taylor’s example as a friend and teacher has inspired me to expand and evolve my own definition of what it means not just to teach but to teach well. Taylor is, above all else, compassionate toward and committed  to the people he teaches. He is a listener, a guide, a trusted partner. He is a human first and a teacher second. Open to the world and always seeking with purpose to expand his own soul through the ongoing beautiful experience of life, his spiritual presence has grown over the decades to encompass an ever increasing interconnection of place, people, culture, history, and drumming. He brings this expansive soul to his friendships and to his teaching. Taylor is passionate, infectious, sincere, and extraordinary as a person, friend, and teacher. Oh, yeah — and he’s a helluva good drummer as well. Enjoy your time with him. I always have.
More Efficient Version:
The Dude abides.”
— Paul Friedrich 
Vernon Hills High School
Advanced Placement U.S. History
Global Studies Capstone
American Studies

“From: The recipient of the Gift. 
My mind dances with these words when I think of Michael Taylor and the impact he has had on my life: Extraordinary Biracial Man, Selfless Human, Intentional Friend, Humanitarian, Sound Healer, Inspirational Soul, Djembeföla, Ancestrally Guided Spirit, Awareness Conduit, Ripple of Consciousnesses , Mystical Experiences Guaranteed!”
— Olina Dolly

“I love how in tune Taylor is with his African roots—a journey he went on to reconnect with his past. His love for djembe is inspiring, and the truths he shares about being of mixed race, and how we all need to reconnect with our cultures when we feel displaced will resonate with you whether you are a music lover or not. Remembering Your Ancestral Fire is a real and very pleasant surprise.”
Nicole Gabriel, Author of “Finding Your Inner Truth and Stepping Into Your Becoming”, Shaman, and Yoga Practitioner and Teacher

“In this powerful book, Taylor shares how playing the djembe not only creates captivating and versatile music but also inspires life changes beyond your imagination.”
— Susan Friedmann, CSP and Bestselling Author of Riches in Niches: How to Make It BIG in a small Market

“I met Taylor somewhere in the late 90’s; probably at a street festival. This is how the drum entered my life.
I was in a women’s group doing meditation and drumming with a native American drum. A friend came in with a small djembe.  Well, that changed my life. 
The next week I went to Guitar Center and bought my first djembe.  Then many more! I Had no idea how to play. I signed up for a workshop with Arthur Hull.  Guess who was next to me ? Yes, Taylor. He had a djembe and a dunun set. I was  like a preschooler wanting to play.. He let me play. So during the weekend workshop, Arthur Hull said if you don’t have a teacher get one. So I reached out to Taylor and started many years of drum lessons, DRUMeditations and a friendship .

Taylor went to Africa for years to really learn in depth and search out the true djembe teachings and rhythms of Mamady Keita. After years of study he finally got his teaching certification from the Tam Tam Mandingue Djembe Academy.

I had the privilege of getting to know many master drummers from Africa. I helped host these teachers when Taylor had them come teach classes.  His quest for knowledge and the history of the drumming culture amazed me. Every time he returned from Africa he knew more history. When it was played, why it was played & what season it was played. During these years Taylor also developed the DRUMeditation. This is a very powerful healing drum ceremony. I have been to over 15. Every time I go something changes in my consciousness & body. The vibrational effects of the drums open, clear and heal my body, mind and Spirit. I can feel my energy move through me, clearing what needs to be gone or healed. It’s definitely a Shamanic practice. I also know that Taylor studied with Malidoma Somé, an African Shaman. Using lessons he’s learned from Malidoma and Mamady brought DRUMeditation to a higher level of vibrational healing. Taylor is on a mission to keep traditional African rhythms alive through teaching and mentoring drummers. I am very grateful for his friendship and knowing he’s in our world making a difference.”
— Blessings, Dawn Curtis 

“Michael Taylor connects. He seems to have close friends wherever he goes, stopping to say hello or exchanging hugs. This is not merely extroversion, but rather a way of being, in which he relates with people and his environment as if all are part of something larger. It is evident in his art, his teaching, and his relationships. You’ll feel this too about Taylor, if at some point the two of you connect.”
— Brian Ralston

Taylor’s Impact in My Life:
Greetings to all that find themselves reading these words. My name is Eric Thomas and I’d like to share with you the amazing impact Taylor has had had on my life. It all started back in 2006 at Prosser Career Academy, a vocational high school located on the west side of Chicago. I initially signed up for an After School Matters program to buy some shoes for the summer and was also intrigued to play some drums. Little did I know that day would change my life forever. Taylor and his colleague offered an opportunity to play drums outside of the program, and that is where the real journey began. Not only was he thorough in his teaching, but he showed high levels of patience, and overall was a very pleasant person to be around. This was crucial at that time in my life as an adolescent who was used to more hostile interactions, especially with figures of authority. Taylor always showed fairness and let me know when I was wrong in a respectful manner. He would go on to invite me to various schools and institutions of where he taught to receive further training in West African drumming. He even had me subbing for his classes at Old Town School of Folk Music while I was still in high school! Taylor also introduced me to the people here in Chicago that make up the West African drum and dance community. He taught me pretty much everything he knows and equipped me to handle any gig that came my way. There is so much more I could say, like the fact that he even opened his home to me for a few years and has always had my back. Today I owe my success as a professional artist to him and would like to thank him for all that he has done for me.”
— Eric Thomas

“Michael Taylor is more than a djembefola. While he has fully embraced the djembe in ways that few others on the globe have, his mastery knows no bounds. Using the djembe as a framework, he incorporates elements of spiritualism to build a community of enlightenment. He is a seeker of wisdom who leaves no stone, stick, or molecule of water unturned. 

I have known Taylor since 2009. Having attended a primitive skills gathering that year, I became interested in hand drumming. I researched many types of drumming styles and something about the djembe spoke to me. After an online search, I fortuitously discovered there was a djembe instructor in my own town! Destiny indeed. The search led me to Taylor. Since that time, I rarely miss a class. His classes not only provide djembe instruction, but also reveal life lessons and are soothing stress relievers. Impromptu nuggets of wisdom are peppered throughout each session. After every class, I feel the experience is the most fulfilling thing I have done all week and my spirit is recentered. 

I have also attended Taylor’s guided drum mediation sessions. In these unique experiences Taylor combines his steady rhythms with a lyrical narration that allows your mind to float to places you’ve never been before. With his ability to build community and his mastery of the djembe, I can imagine Taylor exploring yet unknown prisms and planes as potential offerings in his practice. He continues to evolve and seeks an illumination of himself and all those around him. I look forward to our continued journey together.”
Kip Robbins

My name is Sharon West and I was a teacher the Chicago Public School for 38 years. I am writing this testimonial about Mr. Michael Taylor. I’ve known Mr. Taylor for over ten years. We met while I was a Teacher at Hurley Elementary School and partnered with the Old Town School of Folk Music. Taylor is an awesome drummer that combines drumming with history. He made history come alive through the use of drums. My students learned not only history, but vocabulary, geography, and the technique of African Drums. 

When Mr. Taylor came to my classroom my students had never seen an African drum. They were excited and willing to learn. Every student had an instrument and participated without hesitation. The main instruments were Djembes. The way Mr. Taylor taught was amazing. The students were mesmerized and discipline was never a problem while he was there. We worked together and created African attire so the students would not only play with pride but also feel a sense of culture. During the assembly, students were taught to speak and tell the meaning of the songs and where they originated.

I had been so impressed with the teaching of Mr.Taylor that I hired him to come to my Family Reunion to teach my cousins the history of the African drum. 

In closing, Mr Taylor is an excellent drummer with an array of knowledge to be shared with many. I am honored to have come across his path in life.”
— Thakfully, Sharon West, retired teacher

“When Taylor shows up to teach drumming, all are welcome. For instance: how I met Taylor and began on my djembe djourney. I was sitting at a drum kit at the Old Town School of Folk Music when Taylor came in and started setting up for class. I asked if I could stay and observe the class, and Taylor gave me one better: He offered me a djembe to play and join in. Within three minutes of class starting, I knew I was in a special place, with a special teacher, at the beginning of a beautiful musical journey that continues to this day. Taylor communicates an easy confidence in each student’s capacity to meet the challenges the music offers. To do that, one needs a good ability to read where a student is, and then offer an unfolding they can access. I’ve seen Taylor do this with every single person in a class, regardless of their ability. When a student is in class who has never seen or touched a djembe before, Taylor shows them something they can do, shows them a path to deepening it, and then gives them space to work it out. When a highly experienced player is in the very same class, they are challenged and supported in just the same way. With students at every level, Taylor embodies a balance between the precision and discipline the music demands, and the openness and warmth players need in order to navigate these demands. This opens space for enjoyment, and a feeling of deepening and progress. In his manner of teaching, Taylor models enthusiasm, respect, and joy in djembe, and joy in sharing its gifts of connection and community among beings.”
— Tom Herman

“I have known Taylor for over 20 years, mostly due to our involvement with our Teacher, Mamady Keita. Taylor is a School Director in his school, Tam Tam Mandingue Djembe Academy. He is an accomplished djembe player and teacher, and knows the depths behind the djembe, as he has learned from his long and deep work with Mamady. What stands out about him, though, above and beyond his extensive knowledge of all things djembe, is his kind, generous and engaging presence in the djembe world. I have literally never met anyone who had a negative thing to say about him. He brings his heart and soul to his work, and connects with people authentically wherever he goes. He has come to my drumming center several times as a Master Teacher, and has given us so much more than new techniques and rhythms. He embodies the role of djembefola, a person who makes the djembe speak, and who actively uses the djembe as a tool to create and celebrate community wherever he goes.”
— Tom Harris, M.S., Founder and Owner of Therapeutic Drumming Interventions, Inc.

I have had the pleasure of working with Taylor for over 15 years. Ever since first introducing me to the djembe world, I found Taylor to be incredibly patient, and his knowledge of traditional West African rhythms and their importance is unsurpassed. From opportunities to meet Master drummers, to individualized instruction meeting each and every student where they are currently at, Taylor has inspired me to become a certified instructor as well, which I am currently in the process of doing. Over the years, Taylor’s classes have given me the confidence I needed to pursue a career in music, and I look forward to continuing to learn and work with Taylor for many years to come, furthering Mamady Keita’s legacy and the future of djembe. Thanks for all you do Taylor!”
— Orion Weill

“I’m a big fan of Taylor’s. He taught our sons for over three years, the rhythm of the djembe, the excitement of musical improv, and the spirit of the ancestors.

His teaching style was nurturing, and playful which was reflected in his student’s energy with his call and response narrative. A man for others, who lives with an open heart-that’s Taylor.”
— Maureen Costello

“I have had the privilege of witnessing Mr. Taylor work with the students at my elementary school for the past 7 years. The way he promotes self worth, and accountability in my students is truly an experience in and of itself. My students (along with myself) have developed a unique understanding of music from a place previously unfamiliar to us, and have really been given permission to explore our individuality.”
— Chris Darwell, Chicago Public School Music Teacher

January 4, 2024

Remembering Your Ancestral Fire:
A Biracial Man’s Unlikely Journey of Self-Discovery, Heeding the Call of the Djembe
M. Taylor
Aviva Publishing (2022)
ISBN: 978-1-63618-164-6

New Book Reveals Drumming as Metaphor for Life Lessons

At the center of M. Taylor’s new book Remembering Your Ancestral Fire: A Biracial Man’s Unlikely Journey of Self-Discovery, Heeding the Call of the Djembe is the djembe, a West-African drum that Taylor learned to play as a way to connect with his African roots. Taylor is a biracial man with an African-American father and a Caucasian mother. He looks white but has Afro-like hair. He was also adopted, so his youth was largely a quest for identity. And then he discovered the djembe drum. In this book, he shares stories about his life before and after the West African djembe entered his life, why it entered his life, his numerous trips to Africa, the role his ancestors played in his life trajectory, his unique perspective of being biracial, and how he has become a djembe ambassador teaching drumming to countless people in the United States as well as traveling to other countries, including Ireland, China, and Japan, to share the djembe with other cultures.

One thing that really stood out for me in reading Taylor’s story was his struggles with being biracial and trying to figure out where he fit in. Once he began playing djembe as a way to reconnect with his African roots, he found that he had to deal with racism and an African-American mentality that often put up walls rather than being inclusive. He states:

“What I observed was the mindset, ‘I am black; therefore, I am African, and I know all things African by virtue of my blackness. So I don’t need to study or learn anything African because it’s all in my DNA.’ This mindset was initially revealed to me when I realized that sometimes when I wouldn’t get gigs, it was because a darker-skinned black drummer would get them, even though they had no idea what they were doing and were making up things, thereby doing a solid disservice to preserving the oral history of a place that is really keen on keeping its oral history accurate.”

Taylor goes on to explain how he studied with African masters of the djembe, and while the djembe is a gift from West Africa, it knows no color, nationality, gender, or race. Instead, it belongs to anyone with an open heart who will approach it with reverence and respect.

Unlike the African-Americans he criticizes, Taylor truly wanted to understand the djembe and the West African culture it sprang from. He shares journal entries from his many trips to West Africa where he studied with masters, as well as soaked up local culture and got eaten by mosquitoes. These trips were odysseys of learning for him that allowed him to refine his talents and become a master himself while also helping him to connect with the people and land that originated the djembe.

What Taylor learned is represented not only in his playing, but in the “Africanesque” folktales he composed that are included in the book and reflect African traditions and wisdom. One folktale tells of the origin of the djembe drum, while others tell of trying to become skillful at playing it. Mastering the djembe is, for Taylor, a path to wisdom and the past. He states, “I would learn many years later that speaking djembese is how I connect and commune with ancestors; they have been the wizards behind the curtain of my life, guiding me benevolently through hard and soft times.” By connecting with his ancestry, Taylor has learned never to feel alone, abandoned, or without community.

Taylor’s passion for playing the djembe led him to undergo acquiring a Tam Tam Mandingue Teaching Certificate so he could acquire the skill to teach others. This was no easy task, as Taylor explains:

“No set list of criteria was required to earn those early certificates. You’d hang with Mamady over years, sometimes for months at a time, and then he granted it to you when he felt you were ready, based on what he saw in class with you as a student as well as your comportment. A very important component was the type of person you were; he was trusting you to be a ‘messenger of tradition’ and to represent him as well.”

After some struggle, Taylor acquired the certification. It led him not only to teaching djembe but capitalizing upon opportunities to share his knowledge and skills with others. He describes the ups and downs of traveling about Africa to play for various villages while soaking in more African culture. In the United States, he has taught djembe for many years now, using it as a way to connect with others and give them a path not only for expression but for healing. He has taught in public schools and Montessori schools, accompanied dance classes and choirs, given countless workshops and even taught the incarcerated. His life is busy but full of music, experiences, and magic.

I admit I never heard of djembe before I read this book. But I am always open to learning about other cultures and experiences and this book did not disappoint. Indeed, it opened up new horizons for me. Taylor is a true artist because he has the artist’s soul. He doesn’t just play djembe; he lives and breathes djembe. He has helped to preserve and evolve a tradition to ensure that the beat will go on long after he is gone, and I appreciated the chance to get to know him better through these pages.

Remembering Your Ancestral Fire is the story of how one man who was a bit lost found himself, or rather how the djembe found him, and how they have nurtured one another for a lifetime. It’s a book that will speak to everyone regardless of age, race, gender, or culture.

Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD and award-winning author of Spirit of the North and When Teddy Came to Tow


To purchase your copy of Remembering Your Ancestral Fire, click here: