Djembe & Mande Music Page/Review Section
(last revision 09/26/99)

 
TITLE: DJEMBÉ - PERCUSSION D'AFRIQUE
ARTISTS:
 
ENSEMBLE NATIONAL DES PERCUSSION DE GUINEE
WASSA
WOFA
LES BALLETS AFRICAINES
COUNTRY GUINEA
YEAR: 1999
FORMAT: CD
ISBN 829762
COMPANY: BUDAMUSIQUE

      ( Sound samples are available at:
        http://www.budamusique.com/US/STAR/djembe.html )

The CD features four ensembles from Guinea:

The "Ensemble National des Percussions de Guinee" on track

1 - Doundoumbé          08:27
3 - Bagatai             07:41
5 - Koukou Beyla        06:29

The group "Wassa" on track

2 - Borhomasi Faré      04:18
4 - Tatami Faré         04:48

The group "Wofa" on track

6 - Wassakhoumbé        04:29
7 - Wofa Gbé            06:47

And last but not least "Les Ballets Africaines" on track

8 - Célébration         19:11
        a - Konkoba
        b - Bannaféléko
        c - Donsodon
        d - Pengolaya
        e - Dununba namely - Dunungbé
                           - Takossaba
                           - Kundidunun

                    Total playing time  62:10

The twelve page bilingual (French/English) booklet is introduced by 
Bailo Téliwell Diallo:

"The CD presents different aspects of Guinean percussion and is dedicated to Noumody Keita. The dedication is justified as Noumody - member of "L'Ensemble National des Percussions de Guinée" and  "Les Ballets Africaines" is known for his natural charisma, his talent and his personality".

Bailo Téliwell Diallo
Directeur national de la Culture de la République de Guinée 
(freely translated from the liner notes, Johannes Schya)


Noumody Keita died too early on June, 22, 1995. The remarks about Noumody are, unfortunately, not translated.

"The Guinean percussionists rank among the best in West Africa. The national ballets which came with the Marxist regime - "Ballet Djoliba" and "Les Ballets Africaines" - have trained the djembe fola (djembe player in Maninka language), of whom the most famous are Fadouba Olaré, Famoudou Konaté, Mamady Keita, Noumody Keita, Gbanworo Keita, Aboubacar Fatouabou Camara, Laurent Camara and Lamine Soumah. Some of them have passed away, the others are still active at the international scene."

Francois Kokelaere


Each of the four ensembles is shortly introduced, a bit too short in my opinion: all names have been omitted, probably to protect the innocent, with the exception of the djembe folas mentioned in Kokelaere's introduction. Something I don't like about this booklet is  the fact that not a single musicians name is given with the track list. The music is outstanding, no doubt, but who is playing? 

The only thing given with the tracks, is a little background on the music. To give you an example, "Koukou Beyla" is introduced as follows: 

"The Koukou is danced for ceremonies and celebrations in the region of Beyla, between the Highlands and the Forest region". 

D'accord, but I've seen better liner notes from Budamusique (for example Famoudou Konaté's CD from 1998.

Let's talk about the music and forget the notes. The CD combines four different ensembles and quite a lot of different music. The recordings are, btw, live recordings, but one can only guess the place, time or event  of the recording; this is not a "nice to have" feature, but a must. 

The sound quality is excellent and rather than describing each track, I just pick up the most impressive ones from my point of view. 

"Wassa", founded in 1988 by Marcire Camara are musically located in the coastal region of Guinea. All musicians belong to the Sousou ethnic group. Both pieces are outstanding, as they are different from what I am familiar with:

"Borhomasi Baré" is the dance of a snake, played on bells - "Tölönyi" in Sousou language. 

"Tatami Faré" is played on seven krin, or xylophone slit drums. 
This is a truly contemporary percussion piece with a very 
structured arrangement, where only the solos take on a freer form. 

(from the liner notes; our translation) 
... and it sounds terrific ! 

There's nothing to say about "Percussion de Guineé",  I guess everbody knows their style.

"Wofa" is, according to the liner notes, the most original band in West Africa. They are independent artists creating the  true spirit of the ballets, as initiated by Fodeba Keita; the musical focus once more the coastal region of Guinea.

"Wassakhoumbé"
Bala, jembe and a very special rattle - wassakhumba sistrium - which requires a specific wrist technique, are ingredients of another gem. I've never ever heard that kind of music before. 

"Wofa Gbé"
Another interesting piece of music is played on  krin, rattle, bala, dunun and sikko. It starts very slow, before the music takes off.

"Les Ballets Africains" have been touring the world for forty years and they combine the cultural heritage of the different Guinean regions: coast, Fouta Djellon, highlands and forest region.

"Celebration"
Let me call it a 20 minute piece of fireworks from another well known group from Guineé, a real "tour de force", played in incredible tempi, but nevertheless enjoyable.

To summarize this new release from Budamusique:

A must for every lover of West African music and another gem for every collector, but  the liner notes could be significantly improved. 


Johannes Schya, September 1999


Feedback is, as always, welcome and appreciated.

 <mailto:jschya@hotmail.com>

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