Djembe & Mande Music Page/Review Section
(last revision 02/11/99)

NUMBER:  EFA 01047 CD 26

NUMBER: 3055-2

(Both CDs are available from: Barbara Bucking & Dieter Weberpals; Adamstrase 35 D-90489, Nurnberg, Germany; Phone: 0911/55 35 10 Fax:  0911/58 11 19)


Well, here's a challenge - a review about a couple of GREAT cds, but most of the liner notes are in German which I can't read!  So, bear with me because I think these are two pretty special items!

Johannes Schya sent me "Koko", Argile's debut cd and "Idjo" the follow up, with some other items he picked up for me in Germany. He told me that they were one of his favorite groups; I can understand why!

The group has formed around flautist Dieter Weberpals who evidently has a fascination with the music of West Africa, South America, India and the Orient. He is a very lyrical, inventive and accomplished player.

Barry Sangare from Mali provides vocals, N'goni and some very tasty djembe playing. A former member of Adama Drame's performing ensemble and he is also the leader of his own group playing festivals and dances in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

Gert Kilian, in addition to playing both djembes and congas, is also a fine balaphon player.  Robert Hofman is the guitarist/bass player whose bass lines clearly indicate an interest in traditional dunun patterns. Werner Treiber rounds out the group on traps and vibes.

The music on Koko is a fascinating blend, with the dominant root being traditional Mande djembe and griot style compositions. Within a given tune the flow can seamlessly transition from a total "roots" feeling through deep FUNK and onward into soaring flights of jazz.  There's a sense of Herbie Mann meets Mamady Keita, with the rest of the musicians also fully participating as solists in an on-going musical conversation. Dieter Weberpals' flute has a unique voice of it's own, without ever burying the deep African groove.

Sangare's djembe playing is the best example I have heard of the instrument being used with great effect in a more "western" style band. He's got all the technical chops, a very clean hand and plays with plenty of space. His accents around the other players are out of this world!  Gert Kilian's balaphon plays a contant crucial role in maintaining the West African vibe.

On the second cd, "Idjo", the personnel of the group changes completely with the exception of Weberpals and Sangare who remain the two dominant writers. The music made by this collective (B.B. Thompson & Beate Simpson vocals, Charles Blackledge drums and percussion, Stefan Mack guitars, Louis Gabler bass, and Ramesh Shothan, Indian percussion) maintains the deep groove of the first album, but with a marked change in flavor, mostly due to the interaction between Sangare and Ramesh Shothan on tavil, ghatam and kantira. This is some rhythmically DENSE music!

At the same time I'd say that this album is perhaps the more "airplay accessible" of the two as the song structures seem more tuned to western ears, although all the vocals are still in Sangare's native tongue. As on the first album, the compositions are consistently diverse, interesting and very well executed! Dieter Weberpals seems to have the knack of finding great musicians AND creating a context where they ALL shine.

I highly recommend both discs (especially the first!) to anyone interested in West African music blended with other non-traditional elements. The music is bright, happy and consistently stimulating!

(Johannes translated the liner notes for us, so here there are FYI!)

Koko by Argile, recorded and mixed 1990

Dieter Weberpals, the founder of "Argile" in the liner notes:

"Barry and I talked for hours about the lyrics on this CD, sung in
Barry's native tongue, Banama, and it's not easy to translate it for a European audience. But it was worth trying for those of you, who are not only interested in the expression of the melodies and the sound of the words and how they are interpreted by Barry, but also in the meaning and sense of the lyrics. One difficulty is that a lot of words in Banama have many meanings and associations, which are almost un-translatableinto German."

The songs:

Based on a traditional song from Barry's region Wasalu, a song which might be sung for hours. "Death doesn't announce himself to anyone.." not even to rich people, whose destiny brought welfare and material security. They can't take their money with them once they die."

A voyage throught  music, starting with the African balloon,
destination South America, where one can find many "African roots". The voyage continues to North America and Europe, to soul and rock music. The circle is closed by an African djembe solo.

The song speaks of  a traveler's life "on the road", on the other side of the world, far away from home. A life which gives you a treasure of experiences. The life is sending thoughts and greetings to family and friends at home.

Not a depressing thought but a one full of wisdom, to be aware of life and let live you free. "Regardless of what a man does in life, at the end stands the death".

A song  about street children  with solo parts for vibraphone and
n'goni, the 6-string african harp. In  Africa, Barry plays the n'goni
working as a healer and fortune-teller, as well as for the hunters.

Steps for two
A piece for dancing - not the only one - playing with polyrhythm as well as a dialog between flute and balloon.

A term from modern physics in coincidence with the wisdom of Zen Buddhism. The song is trying to interpret the connection between old and new knowledge.

This song is dedicated to the fantastic musicians of "Farafina",
especially to Mahaqma Konaté and Soungalo Coulibaly. ".. and you'll direct your thoughts always to your hopes.." Your time's much too precious - ".. the moment you spend in this world.."-, to bemoan your luck. Don't stop, but go forward."

"Idjo" recorded in 1994

Anitakama - Welcome
This song calls the young people to come and join the music. "Scho no lu be mini"  literally translated means "where are the young people", "kameleja" are the boys, "sungudjy" the young women. All are welcomed at the end of the song "anitakama".

Djama Kai suni
During a festival, one should forget one's thoughts and sorrows and participate. Can you hear me, the singer? Even if I don't get a welcome-drink, let's celebrate. (in Africa, every stranger is given a calabash of water to welcome him).

Idjo means literally translated "you're right". One rarely meets a man who lost his whole family, without his hope dying as well. You're right to respect him, because the death of hope is the greatest disaster in life.

"Hey Dau, my lover is calling me!" A dancer apologizes to Dau, the musician, because she's about to leave the dance to meet her lover.

Ay ma Donba
A song about the relation between the audience and the musicians. What would we do without you?

With Ishmael, we are interpreting a composition of the South-African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim Dollar Brand,  respected by us  as a pioneer of "worldmusic/intercultural music", whose works are a source of inspiration. The different soloists are participating with different instruments and voices and with different cultural backgrounds a common process of "finding oneself". The circle is closed with a recitation of the Koran sura "AL FATIHA" = "the opening" : in the name of the Lord, the merciful, ....

Nale Nalena
I've come to cultivate our friendship. Let's shake hands, it's always good to do something together. Everybody need somebody he likes. Without you, we wouldn't have that much fun playing our music. "Ay Ma donba Ne Tedon": If you don't join us, we won't enjoy it.

michael wall