African American Studies


Birane Thiame was born in 1976. Originally from Cote d’Ivoire, Birane he settled in New York in 1996. His family is originally from Senegal, but he also has family from Togo and Ghana. He speaks Baoule, a language of Cote d’Ivoire, and Mina, a language of Togo. His mother’s side was Christian, and his father’s side practiced Islam. Thiame’s mother worked as a banker and his father worked for Air Afrik. They worked in the capitol of Cote d’Ivoire, Abidjan.

Thiame attended public school in Cote d’Ivoire, which is free up through the college level. He attended college for three months but left when the country became politically unstable.

Before becoming a DJ, he was exposed to the street music of Cote d’Ivoire, called Zoujolu. The music is pure percussion, and players often follow chants or perform freestyle poetry over the beats. Thiame was introduced to hip hop through a television program. His cousin later introduced him to DJing with two turntables.

Thiame came to New York in 1996 with his brother to attend York College in Queens, where his uncle taught. He got his start as a party promoter by making connections with other Africans he met at school or in the subways and inviting them to dance parties. Much of the music was Coupe Decale music, a Franco-African dance music.

Today, Birane Thiame works in finance and lives in Park Slope.