onette Marino began drumming in 1976 at the age of 8” when her father initiated her on his sparkle blue Ludwig drum set.  In 1981 her father gave her a lesson on the congas and it was at that moment that she fell in love with the skin on skin contact and began to immerse herself into the world of hand drumming.  She spent the next 12 years developing her skills on the congas with local San Diego percussionists.

In the spring of 1993, her interest in traditional West African drumming was sparked when she saw Malian drummer Yaya Diallo perform at UCSD with the ensemble “African Troubadours”. That same year she was introduced to traditional Korean drumming by Mr. Kim Duk Soo, Founder/Director of “Samul Nori”, who came to UCSD to complete a weeklong teaching residency. At the end of the residency, Kim Duk Soo invited her to attend their World Music Festival in Seoul, S. Korea in 1995 and to compete in a “Kyorugi”, a traditional Korean drum competition, for which placed 4th place in 1995 and 2nd place in 1997. 

Her professional playing career began when she met local composer and musician Semisi Ma’u, originally from Tonga.  Semisi encouraged Monette to express her musical talents by joining his band “Semisi and Fula Bula” (which translates to Semisi and a Big Hello).  Semisi’s music was the perfect blend of his native South Pacific island grooves with a little reggae, blues, rock and even Latin spice.  This was Monette’s first outlet for her reservoir of skill and knowledge that had accumulated over the last 15 years.

After a few months of shows with Semisi, Monette realized that she was destined for a career in music. Though she continued to study traditional drumming from Africa, Cuba, Brazil and Korea with Master Drummers from these respective countries and traveled to Guinea, Cuba and Korea to deepen her understanding, she was simultaneously building her reputation locally as a strong performer.  She was a member of the folkloric ensembles “Afrekete”, “Omo Ache”, “Zinco” and “Sol e Mar”, and she was quickly added to the roster of many local bands playing everything from Jazz to Salsa, Samba, Reggae, Funk, Disco, Soul, R&B, Rock and even Country music.  

Monette began her apprenticeship with Master Djembe Drummer Mamady Keita, from Guinea, West Africa, in January of 1997 when she made a one-month trip to his home in Conakry to study the percussion of the Manding.  After three years of intensive studies with Mr. Keita, she received a Certificate from his school of percussion, Tam Tam Mandingue in recognition of her knowledge and skill in traditional Manding percussion. Monette was then granted permission by Mr. Keita to open the 11th branch of his school Tam Tam Mandingue in 1998.

In 2001, Monette won the National Hand Drum-Off competition at Drum Day LA, sponsored by the Guitar Center.  Participants competed all over the country and three finalists were chosen from New York, Miami and Los Angeles to perform at the House of Blues in Hollywood.  

Since 2004 she has been touring with Master Drummer Mamady Keita teaching classes and performing with him and his band Sewa Kan around the world.  Together they have visited over 20 countries on 6 continents.

She is now branching out as a Solo Artist. She has written and produced her first album titled “Coup d’Eclat” which blends African and Latin rhythms and melodies inside Funk and Rock grooves.  Her all-star band includes Grammy Award winning guitarist Larry Mitchell and Grammy Nominated Producer/Arranger Allan Phillips on keyboards, James East on bass and National Drum-Off finalist Mike Holguin on drums.  Also featured on her debut CD is her husband, Master Djembe Drummer Mamady Keita (visit  HYPERLINK “” for bio).  Monette’s music highlights traditional African instruments such as the Djembe, Kora (known as the African Harp) and Balafon as well as the Caribbean Steel Drum, and of course loads of Latin percussion instruments.  It is truly World Music.

Monette continues to explore many drumming systems from around the world and has a deep respect for the cultural heritage preserved and passed on through the language of the drum.