Djembe & Mande Music Page/Review Section
(last revision 05/24/99)

 
TITLE:
 
"DONKILI - CALL TO DANCE - 
FESTIVAL MUSIC FROM MALI"
ARTIST: VARIOUS
FORMAT: CD
NUMBER: PAN 2060CD
COMPANY:
 
PAN RECORDS; RECORDED  BY RAINER POLAK, OCTOBER 1995 IN BAMAKO, MALI

"The CD 'Festival music from Mali' presents big ensembles: 2 to 3 singers, playing additional percussion instruments like rattles or 'waterdrums', accompanied by 2 jenbe and 2 dundun players, are playing music from wedding and spiritual possession festivals. The CD can give an impression of the density and intensity being present at these festivals." 

(Rainer Polak, Master's Thesis, page 3).


The title of this CD 'Donkili' is the word for 'song' in the Bamana language of central Mali, and literally means 'call to dance'. The dancers join in singing the song and their clapping or rattling further supports the rhythmic foundation. Musically the solemnity of the song dictates the musical dynamics, whilst the drumming remains reserved.

The CD contains 14 recordings, which are divided into 3 groups:

1)    Songs and drum ensemble rhythms of the Bamana 
       Rhythms mainly performed at wedding and circumcision festivals

  • Bamanafoli
  • Sunun
  • Didadi 
  • Kirin
  • featuring:
     
    Sita Ye Yabate lead vocals, ngusun (rattle like instrument, made from a calabash filled with fruit seeds)
    Fatumata Kulibali chorus vocals, ngusun
    Na Kulibali chorus vocals, ngusun
    Jaraba Jakite jenbe solo
    Madu Jakite jenbe
    Solo Samake dunun
    Fasiriman Keita dunun

    Invariably the lead singer opens, answered by the chorus and the drummers imediately fall in with the corresponding accompaniment patterns. The tempo is quite moderate at this point. When the singer feels that she has finished her text, or when the master drummer asserts himself because he feels that there has been enough singing for the time being, the latter will assume the lead role and heat up the rhythm as if a solo dancer were present. A drumming phrase cutting off the imaginary dancer is taken as the end signal of the piece. Accepting the lack of context for both performers and listeners - drummers and singers were performing for the microphone inside a school yard - , this is the musicians' idea of how to represent festival music.

    2) Music performed at initiation festivals of spirit possession cults

    • Numu
    • Jaba
    • Kaba
    • Sajo
    • Tama
    featuring:
     
    Hawa Damba lead vocals 
    Umu Damba,  vocals, ji dunun (water drum) 
    Yamadu Bani Dumbia jenbe solo 
    Ndulay Ja tama ( hour glass shaped drum, "talking drum") 
    Jaraba Jakite jenbe 
    Madu Jakite dunun

    Each song is dedicated to a certain spirit. They are given titles with the name of the spirit that is addressed.  The drums call them to come down and possess the dancers. All the rhythms are referred to as examples of 'jina foli' or spirit drumming. Hawa Damba is an elderly lady who was born in 1915. She is one of the most proficient 'jina jeli' (spirit griottes). Her daughter Umu sings the chorus and plays the water drum.

    3) Festival music which has been transformed into other genres:

    • Mogo 
    • Konya
    • Mendiani
    featuring:
     
    Jedi Madi Kuyate jenbe solo 
    Vieux Kamara dunun, vocals 
    Madu Jakite jenbe 
    Fasiriman Keita dunun

    Mendiani is a purely percussive instrumental piece. The rhythm has been one of the favourite pieces in ballet drumming in the 1960s and 1970s.

    The CD includes a 12 page booklet in English,  with some photos and a detailled description of the music, musicians and the context of the festivals.

    Feedback is, as always, welcome

    Johannes Schya
    <mailto:jschya@debis.com>

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