Mali America Music Beat: Andover Musician Works Remotely with Malian Musician

Half a world away but connected to Andover

By Donna Baker-Hartwell

Andover is a community rich with homegrown talent of writers, artists, poets, singers,
and musicians who have been inspired to create here for generations. On October 20, a groundbreaking world music video was released and began streaming globally on YouTube. This 4:09 minute masterpiece, Moussow Women, “For the Women of Africa” is a tribute to African women and women worldwide. The lyrics say that women can do anything when given the opportunity. It was created partly in New Hampshire and partly in Mali, West Africa by two musical artists and friends living a world apart, Linz Schust and Papa Zani Diabaté. This release will be followed by a full-length album and second video, expected to be completed in early 2024 as a part of the Mali America Music Project. Readers can watch the “Moussow Women” music video and get a feel for this global beat on the Lindsey Schust Music YouTube Channel.

Lindsey is a singer-songwriter, pianist, and percussionist raised in Andover, New Hampshire by a family of artists, musicians, and drummers. Papa Zani Diabaté is a master drummer, guitarist, songwriter, and son of Zani Diabaté, the “Jimmy Hendrix of Mali” known for his Super Djata Band.

So how does a native of Andover, New Hampshire, a graduate from Andover Elementary-Middle School and Proctor Academy (1996), come to create music that bridges a culture so far away? It was a treat for me to have had a chance recently to sit down with Lindsey (Linz) and to hear the remarkable story of her musical journey.

Drums in the Family
It begins with her parents Jim and Grace Schust. Linz credits them for introducing her to African drumming and dance. In the 1980s, Grace took over the Creative Arts Association of Andover, a three-decade old local artist circle that held exhibits and sponsored artist and enrichment programs, which had dwindled to a few members. Grace revitalized it by creating Arts Bridge the World. Through this “reinvented” non-profit, Grace invited West African and Caribbean drummers and dancers to Andover and the surrounding area to teach and perform African based drumming and dancing in schools and community centers.

Linz remembers learning drumming and traditional African songs from these guest artists whom her family hosted. Babatunde Olatunji became a life-long friend of the family. He is considered the grandfather of African drumming in the US. The Schust family then started “Timbre Drums” which built West African-Style hand drums. The drums were so beautiful Baba asked them to make him a huge set of three, with which he toured around the world! Baba became Linz’s godfather and performed at her class graduation at Proctor Academy in 1996.
Papa Zani in Boston
After high school, Linz spent a year studying jazz piano and African drumming. Papa Zani came to America that same year with his father’s band for the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Papa Zani met Linz in Boston where he was playing drums for African dance classes. Linz and Grace had been commuting there to take Malian djembe lessons. Papa Zani became part of the Schust family of the heart. He taught at “Camp Mali” drumming weekend in Andover at the Blue Water Farm in 1997 (then Camp Marlyn), organized by Arts Bridge the World and Timbre Drums.

Linz and Papa Zani performed together on piano and guitar with Grace Schust and Louise Grasmere (Linz’s aunt) for a big concert in Boston. They played a Malian folk song called “Yiriba Ye” (big tree), which would change Linz’s life. Linz went on to study music at Brandeis University and invited Papa Zani to teach African drumming to her drumming club. This inspired Linz to mix West African music traditions and modern classical music for her undergraduate and graduate programs.

Connected by a song:
Papa Zani returned to Mali in 1998 after trying to file for residency to work for “Timbre Drums”, but he was unable to get a permanent visa. When Papa Zani returned to his native Mali, he went on to build his career as a master guitarist and master drummer. He started touring with his father’s band, working as a studio musician and popular performer. He also became a drummer for the Malian National Ballet and started his group “Les Heritiers” (the Heirs). Papa Zani and Linz never forgot one another even though they were forced, because of political reasons, to live separate lives.

After graduating from Brandeis, Linz got a master’s degree in music composition at Tufts University. For her thesis, she wrote a piece based on the song “Yiriba ye”. In 2002, Linz and a good friend invited Papa Zani to Switzerland to teach and perform. Linz, her good friend Caleb Cressman from Proctor Academy, and Papa Zani met there and spent two weeks collaborating on a recording. They recorded “Yiriba Ye” on guitar and harpsichord. When Linz returned to the United States, she added a jazzy vocal arrangement to the track. She then sent the “Yiriba ye” song to Mali where Papa Zani delivered it to the national radio station, and it became a runaway hit on Mali Radio! 

Songweaver Drummers & Country Fusion
In 2003, Linz joined the Concord Community Music School (CCMS) faculty and started co-directing Songweaver Drummers with Grace Schust. At the Songweavers Spring Concert in 2005, the women’s chorus debuted her Afro-Cuban album “ Dónde Está mi Corazón” (where is my heart). For the next decade, Linz continued teaching at CCMS and working as a musician and ADHD coach. In 2011, she started “Lindsey Schust and the Ragged Mountain Band”, a country fusion band. In 2022, Linz cut her second album, “Country Way”.
Technology connection
In early 2022, Linz received a message from Papa Zani on Facebook. They had lost touch with one another over the last 10 years. At that moment, the two friends picked up where they left off twenty years ago – creating music together.

Linz and Papa Zani have spent the last year sharing music, lyrics, and videos through wi-fi and smartphones, with a common vision of creating the Mali American Music Project. The project bridges communities and cultures in Mali and America through music. Mali is a country with political instability, limited resources, and conflict in the north. The rich musical traditions in Mali remain strong but are at risk of disappearing from modern life. Linz and Papa Zani hope to preserve these musical traditions and promote Malian inspired music to new audiences. Since the release of “Moussow Women”, they are working hard to finish the full-length album (6-8 songs) and a second music video. To complete the project, they are fundraising on GoFundMe with a goal to finish the project by January 2024.

Papa Zani and Linz are grateful for the outpouring of community support for the project. Friends, neighbors, and students have contributed to the recording costs and have helped promote the project. As an offshoot of the “Moussow Women” music video, they raised $600 through GoFundMe to support a women’s work cooperative in a rural village of 200 in Wancoro, Mali. The women have already received the grant from Papa Zani, purchased a plot of land, and planted a for-profit garden to help their village.

Papa Zani and Linz hope to meet in person soon to promote the project further and teach Malian music. Until this is possible, they will continue the project remotely from worlds apart!

You can read more about the Mali America Project at the sites below. If you are interested in getting involved, contact Linz at:

GoFundme page:
“Moussow Women” music video: