Founder of SankofaAfrica, Keenan was born in Nashville, Tennessee. His love of music deepened as a teenager in Los Angeles, California, where he began his music studies with Master Teachers from Africa and Cuba. Surrounded by a highly spiritual family, he has spent his life focused on studies of music, religion and history.
He is influenced by music giants John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, El Hadj Kouyate, Toumani Diabate, Robert Johnson, Slip James, Johnny Shines, Habib, Koite and Keltigue Diabate. The music traditions of Latin America, Sumatra and India also infiltrate his style.
Keenan performs the 21 string kora (11 played by the left hand and 10 by the right), a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin with a long, hardwood neck. Strings were traditionally made from thin strips of hide, for example, antelope skin – now most strings are made from harp strings or nylon fishing line.
It doesn’t fit into any one category of musical instruments and is classified as a “double-bridge-harp-lute”. He also performs on the balaphone (from West Africa), West African drums from the Mandingo or Mende people, the flute and saxophone.