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What does it take to get an arts grant from the D.C. government?

In 2003, 588 hopeful applicants sought cash from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for various projects. Sometimes they got what they wanted.

NAME: Amadou Kouyate

GRANT APPLIED FOR: Young Emerging Artist Program; city offers up to $2,500 to artists between the ages of 18 and 30.

MONEY NEEDED FOR: recording an album

BACKGROUND: Kouyate, now 23, was a student at Howard University when he applied. He is the 150th generation of the Kouyate clan and “a dynamic djembe and koutiro drummer,” according to his application. “I am the first generation born on American soil,” wrote Kouyate, whose family is from Senegal, “and therefore must preserve the knowledge of my mother’s clan, who have sewn their roots into this nation since their being stripped from the arms of our motherland many centuries ago.”

PLAN: Kouyate aimed to create an album that blended together African-American spirituals, blues, hiphop, and a West African music called Manding, according to the project description. Instruments include the kora (a 21-string harplike instrument), acoustic bass, harmonica, saxophone, a djembe orchestra, and vocals (“in adjunction with the entire body”).


STATUS: disqualified

EVALUATION: Kouyate was automatically disqualified for pulling a no-show for his audition at the DCCAH, says José Dominguez, the commission’s grants and legislative manager.

UPSHOT: All of the music for the album is done, but Kouyate still does not have the money to produce it, he says. He also has a new strategy for winning grants: “I probably would go in and audition—that would have helped.”—Rachel Beckman