Danny and his Instruments
Danny Bain was born in the United States, and grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC, where his interest in music began at an early age. While pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies at West Virginia University, Danny was able to take advantage of the university’s renowned world music program. He distinguished himself performing with the African, Brazilian, and Latin music ensembles, and later even had the opportunity to study abroad in both Ghana and Brazil. After graduating in 2009, he further pursued his studies in these regions independently.
In 2010, Danny’s travels led him to Hungary, which he quickly made his home. With the support of the Kaboca Puppet Theatre in Veszprém, he premiered his first Danny Mesél performance in 2013.
Danny’s first performances for children were simple folktales that he would recite while accompanying himself on an African gyil. The gyil [’dʒil’] is a kind of wooden xylophone traditionally played by the Dagara and Lobi people of West Africa, and whose origins date back to the 1300’s. It is a pentatonic instrument, meaning the scale consists of five notes. It is made by suspending 14 wooden keys on a frame over 14 gourds. Spider web silk covers small holes in the gourds, and antelope or goat skin is used for fastenings. When the keys are struck with a rubber mallet (Danny’s mallets are made from car tires) the sound resonates in the gourds, and the vibrating spider silk causes a buzzing sound. The music accompanying these stories was inspired by traditional African themes and rhythms he learned at the Dagara Music Center in Medie, Ghana, where he studied with gyil virtuosos, Bernard Woma and Tijan Dorwana.
In more recent years, Danny has begun to make use of a wider variety of percussion instruments from around the world, and even a number of homemade instruments, such as the washboard guitar, plumb-bone (kitchen sink trombone), recyclophone (xylophone of recycled metal), and yaybahar (ummm… google it!). Meanwhile, his performances have begun to incorporate more elements of drama, with instruments that often function as puppets (and vice-versa) to help create a unique theatrical style.
Danny has received several awards for his work with children’s music and theatre. In 2015, his book and CD, Ez nem az apu hangja!, was recognized by the Hungarian Children’s Literature Institute as one of the 50 best children’s and youth books released that year. In 2017, his show “Kodzsugukila, the Witch” won a special prize at the 9th Children’s and Youth Theatre Review, and in 2018 he won the prestigious Michel Indali Award. He performs regularly both in Hungary and abroad, visiting schools, theatres and festivals around Europe.