Djembe and Mande Music/Bamako Foli
(last revision 02/02/00)


These tracks were recorded in August 1994 in Badialan 1, a popular quarter in the western part of Bamako, between the city center and the outskirts. It was founded in the early 1950s when the economy was on the rise, and people in French West Africa had gained much improved legal and constitutional status. and forced labor was abolished: it was a period of great hope in Mali (then the French Soudan) and other parts of Africa.

Although this is urban wedding music, it could have taken place in exactly the same way as part of a name-giving ceremony or an engagement. The same rhythms could also be played for a circumcision, but in that setting you would likely hear the rhythms suku and fura-si as well.

As a result of the ethnic background of the organizing family in the context of its urban residence, the music is an integration of Bamako jenbe style (in the personal style of Jaraba Jakite and his party) and the Bamana repertoire. If the family had been of a different background, the performance would have resulted in a different mixture of urban and rural styles.
Drummers: Jaraba Jakite (lead jenbe)
Madu Jakite (accompanying jenbe)
Solo Samake (dununba variations)
Fasiriman Keita (dununin accompaniment)
Singers: Sita Ye Jabate (#1, #3)
Mamanin Kante (#2, #6)
Fatumata Kulibali and Na Kulibali (#4, #5) alternatively take the lead, and play yabara and ngusun rattles and, together with their party, make up the chorus.

Figure 3:
Badialan drummers (left to right: Dra Keita, Sedu Keita, Madu Jakite,
Burlaye Dunbia) spur on a solo dancer. Same afternoon as figures 1 & 2:
August 1994, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: R. Polak


1. Bamana-fòli /Tisanba
The rhythms of track 1, 4 and 5 are all named Bamana-fòli "drumming of the Bamana"), even though they consist of different patterns. By "Bamana" the Bamakoians refer here to the Beledugu Bamana. The region called Beledugu begins immediately to the north of Bamako, with the administrative center for the area located in Kolokani. The repertoire described here as Bamana-fòli is distinct from that of the Segu Bamana (which in Bamako is represented, for example, by the jenbe rhythms Bara and Bonjalan).

2. Sunun
Sunun comes from Kaarta, which is a region and former kingdom in the Nioro, Bafulabe and Kolokani triangle. The people are called Kagòòrò or Kakòòlò; sometimes they are referred to as a Bamana subgroup. Fulbe, Soninke and others live in the same region. Kaarta is both the northern-most area where a Manding dialect is spoken, as well being the northern-most extension of the jenbe heartland.

3. Wasulunka (Kirin)
The rhythm Kirin from the Wasulun region (a very small region, southwest of Bougouni and near Yanfolila) is called Wasulunka (which means "a person from Wasulun") in Bamako. The song is " n'i den t'i bolo " ("If you have no child").

Wasulun music uses the same pentatonic scale as most Bamana music, which makes it easy to integrate Wasulun into the Bamana repertoire. Most Wasulun singers know how to sing Bamana songs and vice versa (in contrast it is more difficult to integrate the songs of most Maninka jeli singers (griot heptatonic style) in either a Bamana or Wasulun musical context).

4. Bamana-fòli
This rhythm is sometimes is referred to as Bòn-fòli because it was originally played on a Bamana drum called Bòn (or Bònkolo or Bònjalan). This also holds true for all the other Bamana rhythms from Segu and Beledugu which were not originally played on the jenbe either. In Bamako, this rhythm is often played as a slow, solemn introduction to a dance that then switches to the rhythm demonstrated on track 1 (Tisanba). The dunun variations are taken from the rhythm Bara (from Segu, as played in Bamako).

5. Bamana-fòli / Tansole
Another Bamana rhythm, which is referred to by some as Tansole.

6. Tègèrè Tulon (hand clap game) / Pès
This is a typical game for children and young people. The title of the game sèngèrè refers to a dry, plain millet porridge eaten without sauce, which is not going down the throat very easily. In the second part you hear the playful rhythm Pès, which was inspired by a Zairois pop hit.

Solo Samake (center left), Jaraba Jakite (back right), and
an unidentified drummer from Kati spur on a dancer whose name I do not
know at a circumcision (fura-si) festival. September 1994.
Photo: R. Polak

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