Jenbe player Jaraba Jakite performs for a namegiving
festival (denkundi) one afternoon in August 1994, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: R. Polak
|Tracks:||1) Bamana-fòli / Tisanba|
|3) Wasulunka / Kirin|
|5) Bamana-fòli / Tansole|
|6) Tègèrè Tulon / Pès|
|9) Woloso-dòn / Jòn-fòli|
|13) Wasulunka / Kirin|
|15) Tègèrè tulon|
|Total time:||48 min.|
|Drummers:||Jaraba Jakite (lead jenbe)|
|Madu Jakite (accompanying jenbe)|
|Solo Samake (dununba variations)|
|Fasiriman Keita (dununin accompaniment) and
Jeli Madi Kuyate on #7
|Yamadu Bani Dunbia (jenbe) and
Draman Keita (dunun) on #8-11
|Brahima Samake (lead jenbe )|
|J.M. Kuyate (jenbe accompaniment) and
M. Jakite (jenbe accompaniment) on (#12-14)
|Singers:||Sita Ye Jabate (lead #1, #3)|
|Mamanin Kante (lead #2, #6, #15)|
|Fatumata Kulibali and Na Kulibali (lead #4, #5)|
Recordings, text, c+p 1999: Rainer Polak
This CD is distributed in limited numbers with the goals of making contacts, sharing good music and providing a positive emotional experience.
In addition to presenting useful socio-cultural information, my intent is also to have the musicians earn some money. To reduce the costs of this essentially non-profit product, the CD is packaged simply.
The musicians and I began this project as a cooperative effort and, at later stages of the project, we received the assistance of Bandaloop Music Productions and the Djembe and Mande Resource and Reference Group.
The recordings were initially self-published in 1994 as a chrome cassette ("Festmusik aus Mali", 200 cassettes were distributed). While the recordings remain essentially unaltered, I have completely revised the accompanying materials. This includes expanding the formerly sparse liner notes, correcting the titles on some tracks and providing a new, more specific name for the overall recording. I am delighted by this rare opportunity to rework previous omissions and mistakes and to make good use of the increased space available in an online format.
The discography of jenbe recordings from Mali is slowly growing. Presently, I am aware of the following:
Coulibaly, Soungalo, 1992, Percussion and Songs from Mali. Arion,
Doumbia, Abdoul, 1995: Abdoul Doumbia. AKD 95.
Dunbia, Yamadu et alii, 1996: The Mali Tradition: The Art of Jenbe
Drumming. Bandaloop, BLP 001.
Dunbia, Yamadu et alii, 1997: Dònkili, Call to Dance: Festival
music from Mali.
Pan Records, PAN CD 2060
Kante, Mamadou, 1994, Les Tambours du Mali/Drums from Mali. Playa Sound, PLS 65132.
Rhythms of Mali, 1995, Drums of Mali: Baco Djicorni. Djenne, DJCD 1001.
Traoré, Moussa 1999: Mali Foli, Talking Drum records, TDCD-80108.
These productions include recordings of festival, ballet, ensemble
instrumental and free style percussion music. Since many of the musicians featured on this recording can be heard on CD already, what is the importance of Bamakò Fòli?
1. This is the first CD actually recorded at a traditional Malian drum-dance event. A "normal" family festival represents the most common performance context for most West African jenbe drummers.
2. The legendary Grand Yamadu Bani Dunbia (born in about 1917) is featured on this recording; he should be carefully listened to as often as possible! Dunbia is one of a handful of drummers who had the greatest influence on the development of the Bamako jenbe style in the 1960s. And he is the only one who has been recorded.
3. This recording features the current lead drummer–Brahima (alias "Petit B.") Samake–from the Ballets Maliens, the national ballet of the Republic of Mali, who demonstrates the solo expertise, repertoire and style that continues to be developed by the younger generation in Bamako.
4. So far, most jenbe recordings from Mali have "Mali" in their title. The title of this CD speaks of Bamako. I wish to emphasize here, and with this CD, the fact that what is commonly known as the "Malian national style" is more accurately the "Bamako style". The full repertoire comes from many regions of Mali; but the fact that it is played on the jenbe drum, in the way we hear it today is a specific result of the creation of an urban tradition, more precisely, the urban tradition of Bamako, "the melting pot". The Bamako/Malian national style is in part a result of the professionalization, implicit in drumming in ballets and in festivals, that provides a living for many drummers.
The musicians you hear on this CD come from throughout Mali. Yet, all have spent a good part of their lives in the capital, and they were musically acculturated in this city whether for the first time or for the second time. As Jaraba Jakite once told me: "When I came here I had already mastered Maninka-fòli, but I did not know anything. It was here that I learned Bamakò-fòli. If you go to a place, you are an apprentice at first, whether you are 10 years old or 30, whether you a beginner or a master. After that I learned Bamana-fòli, because my wife happened to be Bamana, and so I specialized in that style to be able to perform the engagements that I got through her mediation."
These are but four reasons for purchasing this CD.
Singer Sita Ye Jabate is pouring water in front of the drummers to
reduce the dust that soon will be raised by the solo dancers' stamping feet.
Later on the same afternoon in August 1994 as figure 1, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: R. Polak
I. FIELD RECORDINGS AT AN URBAN BAMANA WEDDING FESTIVAL
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.|
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).
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).
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
The preceding tracks complete the "festival" part of our CD. I would now like to present to the reader some extra impressions or ideas of what happens at jenbe festivals in Bamako. I thus quote extensively from the liner notes I wrote for the CD: Dunbia et alii, 1997: Dònkili, Call to Dance: Festival Music from Mali. Leiden: CD PAN 2060, PAN Records.
In Mali–as in many other parts of the world–drum and dance festivals accompany almost exclusively a community's rites of transition: namegivings, circumcisions, initiations into secret societies and spirit possession cults, weddings, just to name a few. The festivals are the most important occasions where music is performed and experienced. Festival music aims mainly at framing and synchronizing the close interaction between the musicians hired for the occasion and the audience that participates actively in the dance, song, rhythmic accompaniment and other forms of artistic and emotional feedback which are part of the event.
In Bamako, the Malian capital, festivals simply take place in the streets in front of the compound of the family organizing the gathering. While the drummers and singers wander in, refreshing drinks of ginger or mallow as well as huge amounts of food are being prepared. An awning is stretched from one side of the street to the other and dozens of small chairs are rented for the occasion. A man is trying to plug in the wires somewhere to power his antediluvian amplifying system.
A couple of minutes before the festival begins, the chairs are still stored in a corner; the audience is not yet present. The drummers informally set the event in motion. Playing expressive phrases without steady time, they announce their arrival and greet both their instruments and the scene of the performance. Some children are sent to arrange the chairs into a rough circle or ellipse in such a way that the drummers, with their slightly asymmetrical positioning, are situated in front. It is the younger drummers' job to liven up the party. Due to their vociferous style they first attract a wild crowd of children who hop across the dance floor. (The elders would complain that high speed, volume and rolls alone are not sufficient to play sweet music.) Meanwhile the master drummer and leader of the ensemble remains seated on the side. He indifferently observes the development of the event, waiting for the moment when the young ladies or married women leave the compound in order to enter the festival ground.
Now the drummers rise to play standing upright. The dununs hang down from the players' shoulders on a cord, the jenbes are attached around the hips with a strap. The master drummer now has to be continually ready to act in his special role. A dancing woman emerges from the audience circle and heads for a position face to face with the drummers. Her movements and the master drummer´s jenbe patterns progress in close coordination and mutually incite each other for a short period of intensely energetic communication. The master drummer increases both the tempo and the density of the rhythm and pushes the dancer's solo towards its climax.
At that point –a solo doesn't last longer than a minute–he suddenly ends by playing a signal phrase. Immediately, the dancer rushes back into the rows of spectators from where the next solo dancer will come forward. After the lead jenbe has cut off the first solo dancer´s performance, the master drummer steps back to again join in position with the accompanying drummers. He reduces the tempo and density. Playing short phrases he waits for the next dancer to enter the ring when he will again push the lowered dynamics towards another climax of excitement.
Thus musical and motion related dynamics are repeatedly raised to a series of stormy peaks. This helps maintain an atmosphere of high enthusiasm. People come closer, their mood being stimulated to the point where the distinction between performers and observers is neutralized, all present become participants.
The co-operation between drummers and dancers shapes the basic process of the festival. Two clearly distinct phases, incitement and exhilaration, continuously alternate with each other. But there are further elements which are musically integrated into the performance by the drummers. At many festivals female singers will appear. They might come, as the drummers do, because they are hired and paid as professional entertaining artists. But every female guest experienced or enthusiastic enough may reach for the microphone to sing.
After a while, when the rhythmic flow between drummers and dancers has cooled down, it is the singers' role to renew the sequence with a new song. Soon a line of dancers forms and begins to move at a measured pace in a large circle: the movement is dignified in character and slow in tempo. Every song is, in itself, a request for a certain dance, with sparse accompaniment on the drums. The dancers soon join in singing the song. Their clapping or rattles further supports the rhythmic foundation. Musically the solemn songs dictate the dynamics, while the drums remain subdued.
A younger woman impatiently breaks away from the group dance formation, and a junior drummer responds too early, pushing up the tempo and volume. Since the elders are still in charge, they emphatically command the younger drummer not to disturb their song and dance. During this stage of the dynamic cycle, the tempo slowly increases, and the energy and enthusiasm rises. The progression reaches a point of no return when suddenly the jenbe soloist radically heats up the rhythm, the formation of dancers dissolves and the overall level of excitement gallops forward like a bolting horse. The drum ensemble's volume and density pushes the singing into the background, and the focus shifts back towards the mutual incitement between the individual dancers and the jenbe soloist.
Jenbe player Jaraba Jakite and dunun specialist Madu Jakite follow the
dancer's movement with their eyes in 1997, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: R. Polak
Drummers are the only male participants in the modern festival culture. Festival culture was transformed and invented anew in Bamako and other urban centers after WW II and especially flourished during the 1960s, the decade of African Independence. Male passers-by strictly ignore the happenings while family members stay in their houses or display indifference by preparing tea on the next corner. The scene is an overwhelming combination of female pride, elegant dressing, graceful movement and joy. The highly sophisticated drum ensemble creates an atmosphere of permanent emotional tension inducing trance and ecstasy. Excitement crescendos as the alternating solo dancers are electrified by the master drummers' phenomenal, ever increasing speed.
During their short and extremely energetic performances, the dancers often deliberately push themselves towards the threshold of losing normal consciousness. Some continue solo dancing until they become "mad" or "possessed by a spirit". In most cases, at weddings, namegivings and children's' festivals, they are pulled away by their laughing friends. In some situations where trance is tolerated and partly stimulated by drugs (such as at circumcision festivals), it is called "madness" and a rude joke may be made of it. In more controlled circumstances, when a healer is present in a festival organized by her spirit-possession cult, the loss of normal consciousness is used to therapeutically cede control to another identity, to theatrically act out the spirit that had caused illness in kind of a psychodrama.
This range of trance experiences, from the most profane entertainment to therapeutic and religious ecstasy, offer rare opportunities for female physical and emotional catharsis in a generally Islamic and male-dominated society. The drummers specifically emphasize the dancer's actions and movements which do not conform to normal patterns of urban public behavior. The drummers work themselves to the edge of their physical endurance to serve the dynamics of the festival. Their bearing is often dominated by athletic bravado rather than economy. The ones who play with the greatest passion and intensity, often nearing the point of collapse - themselves performing dances with their drums - and staying in continual communication with the solo dancers will most frequently attract orders for future engagements.
Drummers may even reverse gender roles in different situations. Performing dressed up with a single head scarf is a rather unobtrusive version. Young drummers, who get even more scarves thrown to them while dancing, regularly escalate the wild and joyful atmosphere. They wind the scarves around their hips and often imitate womens' characteristic movements. In this respect the drummers not only function as hired musicians but also serve as catalysts meeting the requirements of a female festival culture. Their decidedly low status - a drummer may face quite serious difficulties in finding a girl to marry - is a result of this role.
Dressing up for a festive ay. 1994, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: Barbara Polak
As I have tried to describe before, the basic alternation of two dynamically different periods marks the overall structure of the festive day.
|Parameter||phase 1||phase 2|
|Dominant Musical Element||song||drum ensemble|
Overtly the festival is framed by singers and drummers successively assuming predominance concerning musical structures and interaction with the participants. But an external viewer would never guess that singers and drummers are independently hired ensembles with different historical backgrounds, social contexts and musical traditions; their performances are closely coordinated and proceed simultaneously throughout, supporting the whole event during each other's part.
A considerate jenbe soloist punctually throws apt ornamental phrases into the song phase just as an experienced singer is able to cheer on enthusiasm with rhythmic shouts. This capability of musical communication across genre borders seems to have informally developed only according to the needs of its context, a female urban festival culture, in the last three decades. Indeed it is practiced uniquely in the festival context itself; there are no rehearsals or even much verbal communication between drummers and singers. Sometimes even performers not hired for the occasion, e.g. clowns, jugglers, acrobats or karate fighters, attract attention.
Every serious Bamako drummer has to know how to musically fit this wide range of performances into the overall festival performance. A performing ensemble is able to assimilate passing drummers in much the same way a hockey team is able to change lines on the fly without losing control of the puck. This means that Bamako drummers do not only share as common repertoire a pool of rhythms; they also share a set of ways in which they can apply their rhythms to the different needs of other performance groups: ways to begin, to accompany, to support, to lead, to incite, to respond, to take off, to cut off, to end.
Parallel performances at the festivals may develop into two or more markedly different lines of action taking place at the same time. Sometimes it is not clear whether a period of solo dances has already ended: the singers will give a sign to the drummers to start a new song while a tardy solo dancer continues the previous sequence by heading in from another direction. At this point the drum ensemble may split its attention, because they have to meet every demand. The two periods do not exclude each other but simply proceed in a parallel manner.
Another point of frequent splitting of action happens when parts of the ensembles move to honor a certain guest situated in the circle of participants or even in the house. Jenbe players quite often leave the general performance formation in order to produce solos face to face with a notable from whom they expect to receive a tip. They might continue to do so even if coordination with the rest of the ensemble becomes impossible due to distance. These incidents could be superficially interpreted as structural failures or at the very least as lapses of communication. Yet even when two weddings are taking place in the same street, say within 20 meters, the simultaneity of performances does not lead to chaos, but rather it is a joyful game of dissolution and constitution, a way of aesthetically playing with the ambiguity of relationships.
Analogous to this, an ambiguity of perception generally distinguishes African musical rhythm: it is an underlying intention of many African musical structures (off beats, polymetrics) to allow synchronization with them in more than one way. Africans often embody this multiple perception of one and the same musical Gestalt by what scientists call "polycentric" dancing. This means that African dancers are able to physically perform and experience what Westerners might perceive by viewing optical illusions like the classical face-goblet inversion or the more recent "magic eye".
Rhythmic conceptions of Malian music peculiarly are characterized by ambivalence even at the micro-rhythmic level of "elementary pulsation", the smallest time unit. Duration of played notes is systematically varied. These strategies of drummers´ performance practice, partly comparable to "swing" in Afro-American musical practice from Jazz to Hip Hop, aim to generate friction between two parallel pulsations simultaneously framing acoustic perception. African rhythm is not only a stable base for the linear flow of time underlying music, fulfilling this necessary task, it offers at the same time ways to playfully explore multiple framing of perception and spaces of tolerance, ways to surpass the rigidity of unilinear relations between acoustic Gestalt, motional patterns and the self.
To end this series of analogies: Malian vocals are arked by the melodic technique of heterophony, in which each part sings in parallel the same melody, but in its own idiomatic way. The most exciting example of splitting and reconstituting linear festival performance is perhaps the moment when, late in the afternoon, large groups from the wedding festival at the bride's house arrive at the bridegroom's to join the ongoing celebration there. You have to imagine a line of 20, 50 or 150 dancers, singers and drummers marching right into the festival, bringing with them their own songs, rhythms and dances. After a period of parallel performance par excellence–such as two festivals mingling, which would appear to be complete chaos from a single-minded perspective–they will merge together in tempo and dynamics, fusing into one song, dance and rhythm, reorganizing as one circle and line of action. This revolution creates the highest tension and constitutes the climax of the entire festival.
Jenbe player Jeli Madi Kuyate with a friend for whose
wedding (konyo) he is playing. 1995, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: Barbara Polak
II. STUDIO RECORDINGS MADE IN BAMAKO
Jenbe solo by Jeli Madi Kuyate, born about 1949. He was formerly a member of Ballet Maliens and is now retired. He performs Jina-fòli which is the name for about four different rhythms played at the ceremonies of spirit possession cults (see above; for more information on spirit possession cults in Mali please refer to the work of Gibbal (1982) cited in the Manding Bibliography that is part of this web site). Jeli Madi uses two Jina rhythms, improvises a bit (using variations of the Kofili / Wasulunka / Sumale rhythm family). He then plays some free style percussion (what they call Manamana-fòli or "nonsense-playing for the sake of the play") to conclude with some circles of Maraka and then Take.
Titles 8 – 11 are duets by Yamadu Bani Dunbia (jenbe) and Draman Keita (dunun). Grand Yamadu explores ones of the rhythms which was used in his pupil's solo (see #7) in some detail.
9. Woloso-dòn / Jòn-fòli
Yamadu himself was born as a house-slave (woloso). Woloso-dòn means "dance of the woloso". The same often is called Jòn-fòli, the rhythm of the slaves.
Komo is a secret society (French: société d'initiation). This and other regional religio-political institutions lost most of their power during the Fulbe's islamic jihad (second half of 19th century) and during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Yet Yamadu was very active in playing them in rural areas well into the 1970s. Several rhythms are performed for the komo ceremonies in one place, and they vary from region to region. The one played by Yamadu in Bamako is known in the area south of Bamako by both the Bamana and Maninka.
Grand Yamadu returns to Jina-fòli, his specialty for about five decades. This is the first and oldest spirit rhythm and this is how it is played in Bamako.
We now come (tracks #12-14) to a trio made up of Brahima "Petit B" Samake (lead jenbe ), Jeli Madu Kuyate (jenbe accompaniment), and Madu Jakite (jenbe accompaniment). The recording was made in the Palais de la Culture of Bamako: a huge concrete dome with a deep hall effect. Petit B is the current lead drummer with the Ballets Maliens.
13. Wasulunka / Kirin
This is how Dununba is played in Bamako. They sometimes call it Lagineka (La-Guinée-ka) Dununba, i.e. "the Dununbaof the people from Guinea". It is played primarily in the ballets, but only to a lesser extent in the festivals. When some troupe members or professional dancers perform at a festival, they definitely will show off their skills with it, setting themselves off from the amateur dancers.
15. Another Tègèrè tulon (hand clap game) performed by Mamanin Kante fades into and ends with some notes played on the kamalen ngoni (young men's 6 stringed bridge harp from Wasulun) by Sedu Balo.
Jenbe players Rainer Polak (center) and Kasim Kuyate (right) and
dunun player Sedu Balo (far right) performing at a spirit possession
festival (jina dòn). To the left of them sits Yamadu Bani Dunbia,
watching the dancer, as do the drummers and spectators do.
February 1998, Badialan, Bamako.
Photo: Gerd Spittler
1. My orthography makes use of the conventional one used in Mali. It differs from phonetic spelling concerning three peculiarities of Manding languages. First, Manding languages are tone languages; that means that pitch of syllables can transport semantic or grammatical meaning. Differences in tone are transcribed by phoneticians, but not by my simplified system.
Secondly, Manding languages have seven vowels instead of the five available in the Latin alphabet. There are two (one closed and one open) "e" sounds and two "o" sounds. The closed "e" is transcribed "e" by me; in most cases it equals "é" in French. The open one is transcribed "è" and equals "è" in French. The pronuniciation of "è" is between the following sounds of English: "less" and "sat". However, it is better to remain closer to the sound in "less" than to that in "sat". The closed "o" is transcribed "o"; the open one is transcribed "ò". Pronunciation of "ò" is like in "short", but SHORT!!!, like in "hot". The sound is similar to the one in "wash", but it is less open than "wash".
Thirdly, there is quite some variety of nasals in Manding. "ng" stands
for the velar nasal; this is the same as in English ("sing"). The only
difference is that it also occurs at word initial position in Manding.
"ny" for palatal nasal "ny" is identical to the sound in the Spanish word
for "Mister": "señor", or for the French word for "to win": "gagner".
The drum here refered to in Mali is written "jenbe" (Bailleul 1991: 159;
Kone 1995: 78). Francophone persons often spell it "djembé", English
(see also Charry: http://www.wesleyan.edu/~echarry/jembe-spelling.html)
In order in Europe:
tobias ott BANDALOOP music
hofgasse 6 83278 traunstein
république fédérale d´allemagne