Djembe and Mande Music/Review Section 
(last revision 12/28/2000)

Mamady Keïta's third release, the 2-CD set Mögöbalu, brings together some of Guinea's greatest musicians.  Following the success of Mamady's first two CD's, Wassolon and Nankana, which were recorded in Brussels with his group Sewa Kan, Mamady "conceived the wish to make a recording with those who had been his teachers and with his companions from his youthful years of training." Mögöbalu features Daouda Kourouma on dunumba and Sekou Conaté on sangban, and Mahiri Badilifu (as well as Ibro Konaté, Moustapha Djabi and Bandou Oularé on several tracks) on kenkeni. It also features the extraordinary bala playing of Soriba Camara and Alikhali Camara, the kora playing of Mohamed Kèlontan Cissoko, Amadou Camara on bölön (one of my favorite instruments), and the wonderful Mamady Mansarén on Foulé (or flute). Mamady Kourouma, Mamady Condé, and Laurent Camara play bass djembe and djembe accompaniment. Lead vocals are shared by Djéli Kani Diabaté, Dömani Damba Kouyaté and Nakandè Djabaté, with Djontan Condé and Djétènin Condé also singing accompaniment. Best of all, Mamady Keïta is joined in playing lead djembe by two of the other greatest living Malinke djembefolas, Famoudou Konaté and Fadouba Oularé.

Recorded at Mamady's house outside of Conakry, Mögöbalu has a very different feel than Mamady's previous recordings (though the sound quality is equally as good). While there is certainly plenty of extraordinary djembe playing (Mamady plays on every track except one, Famoudou plays on many of the tracks, and Fadouba adds an extraordinary solo on one track), the djembe often takes a back seat to the voices of the other instruments and the singers. The result is a highly textured and varied series of musical highs. The songs constantly move from delicate djeli singing and playing to high energy djembe/dundun ensemble playing, and back again. All of the musicians and singers are deeply rooted in the different musical traditions of Guinea. This recording captures the confluence of these traditions in the modern, ballet era.

The first disk opens appropriately with "Dalah", beginning with an introduction on bala by Soriba Camara, and the song led by Djéli Kani Diabaté. Then the dundun enter, followed by the the djembes, building in intensity with solos by Famoudou and Mamady.  Next is "Söliwoulén", sung beautifully by Kankandé Djabaté; again the energy builds from quiet singing to intense percussion.

Then "Sökö" is introduced by Mamady Mansarén on the foulé and voice in the "style in which the voice alternates with the flute and imitates its playing", and features solos by Mamady, Famoudou, and particularly Fadouba.  "Maraka" has another beautiful song led by Dömani Damba Kouyaté, and features Alikhali Camara on bala. "Kawa" features both Mamady Mansarén on foulé and Alikhali Camara on bala.

"Sofa" features Amadou Camara on bölön, an instrument similar in shape to the kora but with with no bridge and a much shorter neck and only three or four thick gut strings that produce very low sounds (being a bass-oriented person, I love this instrument).  In this track Amadou "in typical griot fashion" links two songs of praise --
"Kèlèmansa Bon" and Warabah"-- set to the Sofa rhythm.  Traditionally the bölön was played by itself but over the years other djeli instruments such as the bala and kora, as well as djembe and dundun, have been added to traditional bölön rhythms.  Here, the bölön introduces and closes the song alone, and plays throughout, complementing solos by Mamady and Famoudou.

Next is "Bando Djeï", one of the rhythms in the dunumba family from the Hamanah region; the song is sung by Dömani Damba Kouyaté and Famoudou, who is from the Hamanah region, is featured on djembe. "Söli des Manían"is a söli rhythm played for the circumcision ceremonies of the Manían and Konia; the song is led by Nakandè Djabaté.

The first disk ends with the only track that Mamady does not play on. In "Mamady Keïta, Ini Bara", Nagnouma Condé sings a song of praise by Mohamed Kèlontan Cissoko, accompanied by Soriba Camara on bala and Cissoko on kora.  Wonderful, beautiful djeli playing and singing, about a subject relevant to us all.

The second disk opens with "Bandon Fadima," again introduced by the foulè playing and singing of Mamady Mansarèn and building into yet more explosive djembe and dundun playing as the ensemble plays the Sènèfoli rhythm.  Next is one of the prettiest songs on the recording, "Toubala Könö", led by Dömani Damba Kouyaté.  "Wassolon Söli" is another söli rhythm used for circumcission ceremonies in the Siguiri, Mandiana and Kankan areas; Nakandè Djabaté leads the song.

"Nantalomba" is sung by Djéli Kani Diabaté to another dunumba rhythm featuring Famadou on djembe. This seems to be a convenient place to mention again the dunumba playing of Daouda Kourouma, the sangban playing of Sekou Conaté, and the kenkeni playing of Mahiri Badilifu.One of the joys of this recording is to listen to the superb interplay between the djembe and dundun throughout both disks.

"Kondèn" is sung by Djéli Kani Diabaté and features more hot djembe and dundun playing.  For "Mamaya" the pace slows down again as the djembe and dundun complement the bala playing of Alikhali Camara and the singing of Nakandè Djabaté.  Djéli Kani Diabaté leads the song for "Namani," which builds up to some of the most impressive ensemble playing on the disks.

The recording ends with Mamady's solo piece, "Djembe Kan."  As the liner notes state: "This improvisation on the solo djembe allows it to display the rich sonorities that the instrument can produce. An investigation into both sound and rhythmic precision and subtlety, it is an illustration of both the teaching and the secrets passed on to Mamady by his masters. It is to them that this piece is dedicated in thanks."

A fitting ending to a truly remarkable recording.

Doug Kane

This CD (as well as Mamady Keita's other recordings), can be purchased on the internet at . They are also available from Tam Tam Mandingue professor Michael Moonbear and other fine vendors on these lists.

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