Thursday, December 30, 2010

K7-21: Doussouba Traore

Voici another Doussouba Traore tape. Thanks to Jean Louis for both the tape and the scans. And, as it is the holiday season and the gifts kept coming in, thanks go to Ngoni for the Doussouba video (below) and this cool link.

Here are some scans for the previously posted Aichata Sidibe cassette.

Some more drawings given as holiday gifts:

American Gothic


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More for your viewing pleasure

I was kindly donated scans lacking from cassettes that I've previously posted (here, here, and here). I will have more music up shortly but my internet at home is down thanks to the faltering infrastructure, about which Thomas Friedman enjoys writing. Here is a recent example that touches on a variety of topics, including that mentioned above. You may enjoy some of his other writings here, but be warned--he has an obvious bias, with which I tend to agree.

Enjoy the scans in the meantime...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

K7-20: Tata Diakite

(image from here)

Well, it's quite clear that the relatively simple process of posting has taken a far back-row seat recently, for which I apologize. Work is consuming and drawing even more so, and the thought of coming up with posting material has become daunting.

For those of you uninterested in blog content unrelated to cassettes, allow me to direct you to the last few sentences of the previous post for the Aichata Sidibe cassette. It's a good one, and being buried deep down in the text I can understand why the resulting download number would be quite low in comparison to previous posts. However, forgive my assumption if it is the case that you do indeed hold some bizarre distaste for Aichata, and the low download number is a glaring indication of that. In any case you've overlooked a solid tape.

Tonight I offer another of my favorites: Tata Diakite's Album de Laban. Looking at her information on mali-music I don't see this tape listed in the discography, so I wonder if it's not a local selection. Depending on context the word laban can signify the end of something--a life--or it can mean the last in a series--a final cassette. My first inclination favors the former, that this is an album in celebration of Tata after her death. However I don't think it's the same as the listed Album du Souvenir because of the difference in track quantities and titles, yet I've never heard that tape and it's quite possible that this copy is missing some tracks. (Bengaly was usually pretty good about having the originals). I don't guess that this could possibly be a final cassette in her career because it sounds earlier than Djama (to be posted later) which was made in 2002 and is laden with synthesizers and keyboards and drum machines (although very effectively). In contrast, this mystery tape sounds more organic-- less electricity involved-- and that can sometimes be a good indication that it is an earlier tape (not always).

Any way you slice it, it's a damn good tape. Enjoy!

A recent drawing.

Check out the Second Line Social site before it's gone. Recently retired, the archives will be taken down at an unspecified date.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


For no particular reason I can come up with, I haven't spent much time coloring greyscale (or French greyscale) like I mentioned a few posts back. But I have spent most of the past month working on ink. I bought a jar of ink and a quill style pen to try to learn from people like R. Crumb and Rand Holmes*, but then to use their lines for my own art.

A few weeks ago I was telling my co-worker that I was in the beginning of a drawing phase, and he automatically shot back by telling me how terrible he is at drawing. And as the days went on I realized how many people say the exact same thing in the same automated response. I found out that for whatever reason-- time, new responsibilities, new interests-- most people haven't sat down to draw since childhood, beyond occasional doodles on the edges of paper or envelopes. They have, however, seen quite a bit of art and established an idea of what looks like good art or bad art. So however rarely they do sit down to draw, anything produced is crumpled into a trash bin; it doesn't look like what they think good, or even decent art should look like.

My hypothesis is that anyone can be a good artist as long as they: draw in whatever style comes out of their hand (left or right), and see their picture as it is on the paper-- not in terms of what they already think their picture should look like, but in their inherent style used to convey the subject. Then their judgement of the quality of the work should be based on how well they were able to convey the idea within their own style. Essentially, how well can you act like yourself? Did you draw that triangle nose like you think a triangle nose should look like? Or does it look like shit because that's just not how people do 'em.

So it's no wonder people automatically doubt their own talent, when they have the weight of a thousand artists' names swirling in their heads and then whatever gurgles out of their pen doesn't fit into any of their forms. In the same way, I used to limit myself to which subjects I'd draw because "so-and-so artist wouldn't draw that". And by looking at a lot of R. Crumb, Rand Holmes, and Heinrich Kley recently, I've realized how diverse each of their subject matters are within themselves. So I figured the best way for me to get better is to put pen to paper and see what comes out (left hand) without worrying about content. No matter how absurd, serious, or strange it all goes.

This past month has been a success in my book. I like the tension drawing straight ink on paper-- no erasing. I have the benefit of having grown up drawing next to my brother (and if you're reading this you should draw more) so I was able to work out a lot of issues when I was young. But even still, sometimes drawings just turn out like crap and there's not much that can be done. Try again later.

And for your blues fans out there...

...that was my attempt at Rand Holmes' style with a R. Crumb butt.

Surprise! Here's Aichata Sidibe. I like this tape because I can hear kamelengoni songs I know how to play (with arrangements on top).

*there aren't a lot of examples of Rand Holmes on the internet that I could find, but you should check him out at a bookstore.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Alpine climbing!

Caution (I jan to o la! (in bambara)): No music this time.

I had a free weekend away from my flies, so I took to the mountains. Washington's North Cascades are a great alpine playground; tons of (melting) glaciers, fairly solid rock (depending where you are), and tortuous approach hikes that'll put hair on anyone's chest. Since devoting my last two years to research I haven't been out climbing as much as I used to/want to.

Objective: East Ridge of Eldorado (below). A really moderate snow climb from the bottom right up to the left. The approach is actually harder than the climb-- roughly 5000 ft up, straight out of the car, battling through thick trees and endless boulder fields, and then trudging across the glacier in the boiling sun. I camped just off to the right at the base of the rock ridge.

And here is my lovely pad for the night, a cozy nook between some boulders. Surprisingly warm, protected from the wind. And melt-water was running not too far away-- always a plus.

A well deserved dinner: pasta veggies, wine, and hot mango drink! All that's missing are some candles and a date.

I climbed Forbidden peak a few years ago (below), and had a nice view of it from camp.

I don't know why I fool myself, I can't ever get away from fruit flies; I brought along some light reading. This paper (below) describes photo-activating a modified protein by using a laser, in order to activate the modified protein whenever desired. If the protein isn't hit with the laser it's "off". So they blast a group of cells in the fruit fly egg with light and induce its function, which happens to be involved in group cell migration, and study various conditions to suss out the developmental regulation of the specific migration of those cells. Pretty cool.

Settling in after some wine and bedtime reading. It got cold with the wind, but I stayed pretty warm between the rocks in my sleeping bag.

Just after sunrise.

The moderate East Ridge of Eldorado. I didn't take the traditional alpine start to the day (4am) because I knew it didn't get cold enough to completely freeze the snow overnight (none of my water froze), which would make for easier travelling. The climb itself was easy, the exciting part is just up over the sky-line...

...where you traverse this knife ridge. In reality it's probably a solid two feet across, a little smaller than a sidewalk, which everyone can easily walk across. The exciting part is how steeply and immediately it drops off hundreds of feet back down to the glacier on either side, and the whipping wind-- it's fun.

A nice view from the top. This might be Dorado Needle, but I'm not sure. It doesn't really look like a needle.

Peanut butter sandwiches are a staple, although if I eat another one I might vomit. There can be too much of a good thing and I reached my limit on the summit.

On my way down I passed three old-timers slogging up the snow, which was getting progressively softer and mushier as the sun cooked it, making for slow, sometimes painful climbing (why an alpine start, if cold enough, is better).

After climbing, packing up and decending a total of ~6000 feet, I finally made it back to the car to be attacked by big, biting, black-flies. I walked back to the river to jump in and rinse off but just one step in reminded me why I don't like swimming in glacial rivers-- they're too damn cold.

Monday, August 2, 2010

K7-18: Bintou Sidibe

In place of an image of the Bintou cassette, which I don't have, is a picture my friend drew in one of my notebooks that I rediscovered the other day. Thanks Nicole!

Voici another wassoulou treasure. My brief searches for information on Bintou Sidibe were rather fruitless (although this was cool). Bintou is of the old school of wassoulou women, among Coumba Sidibe, Kagbe Sidibe, and early Oumou Sangare. One brief conversation with friends in Yanfolila at the time, recounted a story where Bintou and Oumou recorded their cassettes at roughly the same time in the late 80's, and essentially raced to get them on the market. As I was told, Oumou's cassette got there first and blew up (perhaps for obvious reasons when you listen to both side by side), while Bintou remained locally famous, but not internationally so.

I don't have a version of Oumou's "Moussolou" cassette up to download, nor have I come across one in the vast internet ocean. And the quality of the youtube links that follow aren't great. Nevertheless...listen to the similarities between Bintou's track Nene and Oumou's Diaraby Nene. And then listen to the nearly identical opening to Bintou's Neye Dounanye and Oumou's Djama Kaissoumou. It wouldn't surprise me if they had a lot of overlap between studio musicians which may have fed-back between the artists.

Oumou's versions, and her cassette overall, seem tailored to a broader audience, more tightly arranged, quicker and less exploratory. Bintou's on the other hand are long-form and embody the impovisational prowess for which local Mande music is known. (That might be a question Ngoniba can answer(?))

In general I think I prefer the long-form and extended instrumental parts in Bintou's tape. The relaxed tempo of all the music is quite pretty and the small ensemble allows the intricate and rhythmic playing of each instrument to blend very well; nothing is muddled (wait for Vol. 2, full of synthesizers and drum machine). Oumou's production incorporates modern drums (mostly just a hi-hat), a violin instead of soku, and pop arrangements. Diaraby Nene might be one of my all-time favorite wassoulou songs out there (especially the remastered 2003 version where you can clearly hear the kamelen'goni).


*update* here is Bintou's cassette cover

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

K7-17: Doussou Bagayoko

My apologies for the absence. I've been concentrating on other things recently and lost track of time.

I realize that I introduce tapes as being another of my favorites quite often, and now's no time to quit. This is another one of my favorites. Doussou Bagayoko is the daughter of Nahawa Doumbia and NGou Bagayoko. Dayele was huge in Bamako and Yanfolila, blaring from push-carts loaded with tapes and speakers, blaring from store fronts and phone booths and taxis. My friend Vieux, who ran a phone booth next to Papa's mechanic shop (pictured below) played Dayele and Black So Man's cassette over and again every day.

At that time Papa's garage was located on the main market road off the (now) paved highway in Yanfolila. Passers-by seeking shade, others needing to make a phone call, or even more waiting for their scooter to be fixed next door sit down and chat, perhaps share tea then move on. Roaring above the already maxed-out stereo is the constant revving of old scooter engines, mufflers completely blown and the motor screeching, spewing thick black smoke into the face of mechanic as he deciphers the problem. Oil pools and eventually seeps through the dirt.

The production and instrumentation on the tape are quite good, but I don't know who the musicians are. Anyone out there? And the harmonizing vocals are strong. No single song is leagues above the others, and the whole cassette is solid. I'm pretty sure that this tape, along with the "second half" are available on line as one set, while they were available as two separate cassettes in Bamako, Dayele and Koungo Sogo (to be posted later).


(Papa Sidibe is on the right. He and his family have welcomed me on more than one occasion and their kindness is endless.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

K7-16: Satta Kouyate

While this picture is not the cover to Satta Kouyate's cassette, Guéléya is one of the songs. The tape (Dakan) is another absolutely solid one. Satta has a dynamic voice, strong on top of the full music. It's easy to become accustomed to thin voices on some newer wassoulou music, so I enjoy the beauty of Satta's powerful vocals; it reminds me of Kagbe Sidibe.

Nieba was her first cassette, and I'm fairly certain Dakan is the second. I read a rather grim interview with Satta and she mentions singing Guéléya, but not whether it was the hit song or the title of the album. My tape's jacket was labeled Dakan. Anyway, the interview was overall, as I said, grim. Satta is quite troubled by her talent. I won't go into any of the gory details, but the interview doesn't end on a bright note -- tread with caution. Perhaps you can detect her sorrow in the music.

UPDATE (6/10/10): Satta Kouyate at a party of some sort, from Ngoniba's seemingly endless stock of ORTM videos.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

K7-15: Lamissa Bengaly

Lamissa Bengaly was instrumental in promoting Senoufo culture and balafon music around Mali and beyond.  And with that reputation behind him, I would have guessed that Lamissa was an artful and skilled player, however the cassette jacket suggests he may have used it only as a vehicle from which to address his audience, his true art. Then, left in his wake was the instrument, ready for attention.

I don't know many details about his life or how vast was his influence, only that he's from the Sikasso region and is remembered next to Bazoumana Sissoko, Tara Bouare, and Toumani Kone, among others no-less important as major influences. He even has a performance hall named after him where balafon competitions are hammered out, and Nebe Solo, a new balafon musician, paid homage to Lamissa by way of song.

The sticker in the middle of the cassette jacket and the number code printed inside it tell me that the cover is indeed original, but I'm rather skeptical of the cassette itself, no matter what the stamp says. Bear with me...

Five tracks are listed on the cassette jacket, while twelve individual tracks are actually on the tape (five on Face A and seven on Face B). After painstakingly comparing like-tracks side-by-side, down to syllables, I determined that Face A contains the whole tape and Face B repeats the three tracks listed, and at the same time presented Behantane and Meilleur Voux spliced together to make a deceptive new track; don't be fooled though. Therefore I included only those tracks from Face A that I judged to comprise the complete cassette. I don't speak Senoufo (and can't precisely say if Lamissa is occasionally singing in Bamana or not), but the only song I could hear him actually say the name of the title was in Fadja Joghou. It was in this manner, using Fadja Joghou as the landmark, that I titled the tracks.

It sounds like Lamissa is accompanied by one other vocalist who, in between Lamissa's extended phrases, sings cycling choruses. The voices sound similar, though it sounds as if the obviously featured voice (Lamissa) cuts off the other whenever he's ready to speak his mind. Each lyrical phrase and transition between the two is introduced by an accented first syllable.

Notice the vocal styling in the final thirty seconds of Meillure Voux (before it unfortunately fades out) and compare it with the old man who finally demands his turn to speak in the movie Bamako, by Abderrahmane Sissako. If you haven't watched it you may enjoy it; a half-fictional film about many relavent topics, including the strategies and effects of the World Bank and IMF in regards to African nations, unfolded as testimony from villagers and city-dwellers in court. Anyway, the old-timer might be Senoufo.


**If you're losing sleep at night because I didn't provide the full cassette, just listen to each track a few times in a row and it'll give the same effect while reducing redundancy. (Except for Vavouughou and Fadja Joghou, which play once each on the full tape).**

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

K7-14: Kagbe Sidibe

This is a good one.  Kagbe Sidibe and her group drive the music forward relentlessly.  Each song swaggers so deeply, bouncing between steps quickly but strongly.  Indeed, if it were coming down the street, with that heavy swagger, I wouldn't want to get in its way.  Kagbe must have been a force in her day.  When I heard her on the radio a friend told me it was the song Patron that won Kagbe a spot on the Friday night music show Top Etoiles, in the early 1990s/late 1980s(?).

Don't try to drive home after this one.  More Kagbe to come.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

K7-13: Gobou Woletö

This past month has been absolutely insane. Who knew fruit flies could be so demanding? Every day it was more and more of I'm too hot! I'm too cold! Feed me! Read me a story! Bacterially express and purify my proteins to show a direct interaction!

Man alive! I suppose it's job security, though. Not like those grocery checkers who can be replaced by the machines; flies won't be reading their own bed-time stories anytime soon, that's for sure!

Well, I suppose I'll get back at it here. The picture above was drawn for a friend (and if you haven't received it yet...surprise!)  The picture of Samory Touré was printed. The text/lyrics were pilfered and rearranged with a liscence artistique from another Duran article, wherein she quotes from Coumba Sidibe's version of Ndanani. In rearranging the lyrics for my specific needs I'm not sure if I took all sense out of them, perhaps taking them out of context. It makes for nice poetry however:

The road to Wasulu is far for us,/ the little place is far./ Don't you hear the little bell ringing?/ Words cannot be trusted today/ But if you have love,/ love is trust./ Don't you hear the little bell ringing?/ For this is your song./ The bird of Wasulu has sang./

Samory Touré has an interesting story that leads to his founding of the Wassoulou Empire in the latter half of the 1800s, and wanders further until his eventual capture by the French in 1898.  Interestingly, Sekou Touré, infamous Guinéen president, is Samory's grandson. This might partly explain Sekou's obstinate objection to French involvement in Guinée--not in the obvious connection between Samory and his evasion of and eventual capture by French armies, but in the sense of Samory's character, who rarely compromised his will or desire in obtaining his vision for a united Wassoulou Empire.

I'll use Sekou Touré as my jumping off point to present my much delayed musical mango, which arrives ripe from deep down in the forest of southern Guinée--N'Zerekore specifically. This small town is near the lively borders of Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire, and it was indeed lively. The crowded and endlessly bumpy modified-Toyota-van ride down from Kankan left everyone caked in red dust.

After a few weeks I was introduced to the group Gobou Woletö.  Four guys played wooden trompets (tulu), one a smaller higher-pitched drum, another a slightly larger deeper drum with aluminum fins stuck in the cords of the drum that were lined with soda-can tabs to make the soft jingle, and the last kept all the time on his iron bell.  Hearing and seeing this music upfront was incredible.  The first song felt like a swirling cloud overhead.  It was madness, I couldn't tell where the rhythm was (though it's pretty clear in the recordings that the bell is the anchor).

The trumpeters alternated blowing in the horn and singing syllables which added to the swirling effect.  I wish I understood any bit of the language Guerzé to know if they each say a different word to make a phrase in these songs, or if they're all alternately saying different things with their own complete meanings.  I don't know and didn't ask.  

The trumpeter in the red cap was responsible for obtaining and distributing the gasoline-jug full of palm wine, which was quite tasty. The picture of him climbing the tree with a knife between his teeth and slingshot in his pocket didn't turn out.

Kéwo, the woman off to the right in the picture above, was instrumental in helping me find this group and others in the area. She can't be thanked enough for her effort, patience, and kindness.

Our talented dancer in white explained the significance of each song and Kéwo supplemented his efforts with written notes in a small book, and here are my translations:

1) La Salutation:  Song often played for strangers, respected old people, and officials.

2) Nangha ma pa:  A song to manifest love or declare our love for someone or something.

3)  Yawala ga bhè ghanli:  Title-- For those who want to say you don't see me, tell yourself that I've gone.  This is a song of goodbye, often sung at the end of ceremonies and events to say goodbye to the crowd.

4)  John Paul II:  This song was played to get people to go to church.  It was a manner of respect for John Paul II; when he goes to church we should follow behind him.

5)  Yila löbha kani kokoï:  Title-- Patience makes joy.  In life we must be patient; don't be hurried.  God doesn't forget anyone and knows what he's planned for everyone.  Patience is a good thing.

6) Ya yanlo te ghe wa ne ba:  Title-- When I cross the river I greet my mother.  At the death ofune grande personnalité and at the moment they are to be buried, we sing this song to say goodbye and many other things about the other world.

7)  Yawala loga wo bhogho tu wo kè:  Title--If you haven't had any children, don't behave badly.  Women shouldn't tell themselves, "since I haven't had a child, I'm going to behave badly".  Certain women who haven't had children prefer to drink alcohol because they think it diminishes their worries.  On the other hand, there are women who haven't had children and they respect themselves.  Women should maintain their dignity.  The lack of a child should not be at the base of bad behavior.


(I went straight)

And, does anyone know of any blogs that have Oromo music from Ethiopia?  Let me know!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

K7-12: Wa Flash

Let us take a slight detour away from the arid land of Mali and venture into the just-as-arid land of Thiés, Senegal.  Enjoy the relatively relaxed mbalax of Masane and Wa Flash.  My friend Jules Diop respected Masane because her hair was real, but I suspect that some of his appreciation was reserved for her voice*.

At the time I spoke Wolof well enough to explain the vile things I was willing to do to the mothers of would-be pick-pockets, and that I would eat their days (demai lekk sai funn) if they kept bothering me (I learned these vile words from children or the parents yelling at their children in Dakar).  However, as much basic conversation that was to be had, I could never fully understand the lyrics of mbalax, nor did I ever really fully appreciate mbalax, in all its sugary, treble-heavy sabar madness and glory.  

Nevertheless, this is one tape that I do enjoy.  Some songs are a little blown-out.

My favorite song is Sincerité.  I don't know exactly what Masane is singing when she says someone is crying, but when she sings "mingi joy", she sings "he/she is crying", which would make sense in a song titled Sincerité.  And she implores someone, presumably the husband and father in the video, to wanko--to show it, sincerité.  My best guess is that Masane is singing about anonymous woman married to typical man who refuses to show any sympathy to the woman's situation (the video doesn't reveal much, so perhaps polygamy, which is a relevant topic today) and later in the second little segment between the dancing, the father not being sympathetic to the daughter's situation with her young suitor.  

'Soxna' is either the word for woman or a respectful word used to address women.  For example, to get the attention of a woman working in a little shop I'd address her generally as, [Hey] woman...soxna si ([hey] this woman).  I'm pretty sure adding si, because soxna starts with an 's', makes it a close noun, like saying gorgui, where gor is the word for man, and gui is the grammatically correct thing added after. Since gor starts with a 'g', gui is what follows.  I'm not a linguist.  However, it was explained to me by a linguist that modern Wolof has generally abandoned the agreement between noun and grammatically-correct-thing-added-after-the-noun, and made them all neutral, in a sense (I'm not sure they took a male/female sex), in that, now nouns are mostly followed grammatically with a 'gui' rather than agreeing with whichever letter the noun starts with.  Like I said, I'm not a linguist, so that may have been terribly confusing.

Enjoy the music.  More mbalax to be posted later.

But before I go and since I'm feeling rather mbalaxy right now, here's a youtube video of one of my favorite songs, coincidentally enough also concerning women's plight in Senegal. 

*and that Masane is very attractive.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

K7-11: Allata Broulaye

Allata Broulaye seems to have wanted to stay out of the media's attention--including the recording industry--preferring to be known through performance instead.  He is credited as being the "inventor" of what we all know and love (if not by name at least by sound)--the kamelen n'goni.  I hope you'll be lenient with me in light of most of what I am going to write below is taken from one excellent article written by Lucy Duran, as well as from what I remember asking friends in Yanfolila, who didn't speak much French and I very little Bamana, about the origin of the songs I was hearing and learning.

I say Broulaye avoided attention because Duran credits herself as having the only interview he ever gave (1996), months before his death (1997).  I say he avoided the recording industry because Duran and another talented researcher, Graeme Counsel, cite his only full-length, official album to have been recorded in 1981/3, titled Spécialiste de Kamelen N'goni.  Before I go on with more info about him I want to point something out, if you haven't noticed already.

Duran's note at the end of her article and Counsel's comprehensive discography list Broulaye's only LP/cassette as Spécialiste de Kamelen N'goni (the year of release differs).  However, the cassette I present to you, and that was presented to me in the market as Allata Broulaye's "only" cassette, is titled L'Initiateur de Kamele Ngoni.  Presently, the only other island in this vast internet ocean where I can find another listing for L'Initiateur de Kamele Ngoni is here, a listening syllabus for a Harvard music class in 2008.  I cannot find a single website that provides a track listing for Spécialiste de Kamelen N'goni album, nor for L'Initiateur de Kamele Ngoni, save for the three tracks on the Harvard site linked above.  So, your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not I have the true "only" cassette.  The score is 2-2.  Duran and Counsel -vs- me and Harvard.  Perhaps these tapes are one-and-the-same, perhaps not.  Let me know if you figure something out.  At least here I have home-field advantage.

I'll get back to this conflict with relevant information a little later, but for now, enough of that.

Duran writes that Broulaye was the first to record kamelengoni with his niece Coumba Sidibe (to be posted later) for Radio Mali, in 1977, and it wasn't until the early 1980's that he put his first LP to wax.  Brulaye said he was never paid for that album and thus never recorded again.  I would like to think that it would be impossible that not a single event where Brulaye may have played for a crowd, such as for the opening of such-and-such market, or such-and-such school, or whatever else might warrant ceremonious music in his whole career, wasn't ever recorded by a Radio Mali journalist or Radio Wassoulou journalist, as is quite common.  There are plenty of locally recorded tapes available to support this practice, my Seydou Camara post being one of them (although I don't know the exact purpose for that recording).  But then I remember one has to consider the original "purpose" of the kamelengoni and what it represented to Malian youth and musicians and artists: freedom from ceremony and ritual, which was required for any occasion that the donsongoni played.  Instead, kamelengoni was/is for pure entertainment.  So perhaps there aren't any recordings of Brulaye playing for the opening of whatever was opening because he simply didn't play for those events.  He only played to make people dance in the villages, a pure expression of "his" art.  Broulaye's brother said, "'This was our own dance music.  We didn't listen to records or the radio.  Young boys and girls would meet in the evenings outside the village and dance to this music until the early hours of the morning...'" (Duran, 2003; I'd give a page number but my copy doesn't have them).

Duran also mentions that shortly before his death, Broulaye recorded a few songs with Oumou Sangare at her house in Bamako.  These were recorded by Ousmane Haidara.  I'm excited for a future trip to Mali, in part to track down some of these forgotten recordings.  Speaking of Oumou Sangare...she is one of the singers on this album.  If you listen closely to the songs Dundun Ba and Djigui you can hear Broulaye single out Oumou Sangare, singing her name.  

I will never claim that I speak Bambara well (yet), and if someone out there can correct me please do, but to me it sounds like Broulaye is singing something like this, beginning at minute mark 1.29 of Djigui: Oumou Sangare ngoni min y'a djigui ye/ (chorus)/ Kamelengoni kan...//

My translation, if I'm correct would be, roughly: Oumou Sangare, the ngoni that gives her hope/ (chorus)/ The language of kamelengoni...// and then I can't separate the words (plus he sometimes sounds like he doesn't have any teeth).  In most cases djigui translates to hope, but from experience it seems to me that any word in Bamana can mean anything depending on the context of the rest of the sentence.  Then in the next line, adding -kan after a noun typically means "the language of that noun".  Such as Bamanankan = the Bamana language.  Konokan = the language of the bird.  Side note: when you hear many Wassoulou artists sing "wassoulou konokan bora", they're singing that their words have left.  (bo = to go--among other things--and -ra makes that verb take the past tense).  In this case the singer is the bird of wassoulou who has just said whatever it is they did and the words have left them.  Another side note: although Oumou Sangare is most famously given the title of the Bird of Wassoulou, such a title is not unique to her, although she does have a very pretty voice. 

A brief return to the conflict of the dueling cassettes:  Duran quotes from two of Broulaye's songs from Spécialiste de Kamelen N'goni in her article, listing the titles as Mousso keleyato and Yayoroba.  You may notice that neither of those are in my cassette presented to you.  However, I have not scoured the lyrics of my tape for those phrases, which if identified, would lead me to believe there is merely a difference in song titles not content.  The score is still 2-2 in my book (Harvard has my track titles, and Duran has them for her team).

I've written more than I thought.  I love the kamelengoni.  The picture at top is a close-up of Sekou Kouyate's axe, who is pictured behind the title of this blog.  I hope you enjoyed the brief lesson in Bamana grammar.

Post script:  I am hesitant to make any connection between Malian music and the blues, for one because I'm tired of reading about it in the superficial terms by which it is typically presented, and two because what I want to write is not founded on anything beyond an entertaining coincidence; so here goes.  I've been listening to a lot of pre-WWII blues lately.  Allata Broulaye reminds me of a Henry Sloan type character.  Henry Sloan is credited with teaching Charley Patton to play the blues, and Charley Patton, as I understand it, went on to teach people like Son House and Bukka White, among others, and on and on until the blues is what it is today one-hundred years after the fact.  There is only one single reference to anyone besides Charley Patton ever having seen Henry Sloan alive (W.C Handy in 1903), and even that is an ongoing debate.  Allata Broulaye apparently only gave one interview and he was the founder of a musical movement that cemented a cultural identity.  

--an entertaining coincidence, is all.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

K7-10: Tara Bouare

This cropped picture was taken years ago for other purposes and was found now in my computer; not complete, but something.

I know very little about Tara Bouare, and most (all) of what I do know is from brief internet searches.  She seems to be regarded as a musical pillar of Malian and Bambara culture, and has remained a vital and inspiring figure in the cultural consciousness as far as twenty years after her death in 1971 or 1972.

Dictator Moussa Traore's caravan was stopped by the now current second-term president Amadou Toumani Toure, in 1991.  At the time ATT was general of the military and his coup took place as the result of Traore's violent suppression of growing protests against his thirty year reign as head of state/presidency of Mali.  Traore's security forces opened fire on a crowd of protestors, killing around three hundred people on March 22, 1991 in central Bamako.  Apparently Tara Bouare's song Sanounegueni was somewhat of an anthem at the time*.  The translation is golden rod, and the substance of the song, I've read to be, is that no kingdom is forever.  One can imagine that during a time of favourable political upheaval and transition, such a message would be inspiring, and especially--at least from my perspective as an outsider looking in--since that message was delivered by means of a simple song by an artist who had been absent, yet apparently lingering in the public consciousness, for the previous twenty years.

Goes to show the power of song and the Malian musician!

**Interesting note: Friends in Yanfolila told me that during Moussa Traore's reign, his police forces were instructed to stop anyone from playing kamelengoni down south.  It was thought that too much entertainment meant too little work, so anyone seen playing was promptly made to stop.  This might explain the legends of late-night gatherings and dancing outside of town, of which I have no reference to direct you, but remember reading.  I wonder what (negative) effect such a policy had on the prevalence of the instrument today.**

Thursday, February 18, 2010

K7-9: Souley Kante

Souley Kante: artist, auto-mechanic, smith, and traditional doctor*.  I had to pay extra for this one.  At the time I was searching for kamelengoni tapes and a vendor told me that since he had held onto this copy over the years he wouldn't sell it for the normal CFA, but instead wanted 1.5oo CFA.  I bought the tape and I'm quite happy I did.  

I didn't know at that time--but soon found out--that Souley Kante has been around the Malian musical block: inspired by Coumba Sidibe, formed a group with Sali Sidibe, and toured with Oumou Sangare until the bird flew off on his own musically successful solo career.  

Venture over to Awesome Tapes for another Kante mango if you haven't already.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

K7-8: Djeneba Seck

Speaking of Djeneba Seck, Tigne is another one of my favorites.  The beauty of this cassette in my eyes, is its simplicity, Djeneba's simple honesty as a singer.  What I mean is that she is not exerting herself to impress us with her prowess as a vocalist; rather, she is impressing us by her effortless talent as a vocalist--like she's just speaking, but speaking very beautifully.

Acoustic musique malienne is my favorite.  I like the playful guitar and flute introduction on Yere Ladi.  And during the song Foulbe I imagine a courtyard procession with drummers clacking and women dressed in their finest wax, stepping in time as they march down the center of crowded lines of people.  It seems as though Zoumana Tereta is the go-to, when it comes to soku.  I have no complaints with that.

Sterns put this out as a CD (titled Truth in English) and I can notice two differences: the CD has a twelfth track that my cassette does not, and the cover is different--so I didn't post Sterns', yet mine is with the physical tape miles and miles away.  I do suspect however, that my tape--regardless of it having a jacket--is a bootleg anyway, which would explain a lot to me.

I remember standing on a balcony one night in the quartier Hamdallaye in Bamako, hearing this tape blaring out of a boom-box from below and I immediately melted; not because of the absurdly oppressive heat, but because of Djeneba's voice.  And months later on a rather uneventful bus-ride, at least in terms of what one might imagine a bus-ride in Mali could be like, Anka Maliba was one of a handful of songs on the one mix-tape in the bus, played morning till night for two-and-a-half days (Bamako-->Dakar, the train had wrecked weeks earlier, sadly killing my friend who preferred to be called Mike (pictured below).  If it were not for his friendship and those which followed as a result, my life would be quite different today).  Come to think of it, there was a group of Nigerians on that bus who were relocating to Gambia.  I served as translator between the French speaking and English speaking, and tossed in whatever Wolof or Bambara I could handle (I was better at Wolof).  At the Senegal-Mali border I was the only person not required to bribe my way through; the officers were very cordial.  So I guess more happened on that ride than I tend to give any event, I bought the tape.


**Pictured below is Mike, from Benin.  He more-or-less lived on the train (pictured above), taking and filling orders between the Dakar and Bamako markets.  He and dozens others never paid passage but knew exactly when to avoid the train officials, thus avoiding any unfortunate incidents.  The train took five days and four nights.  I don't know if that's normal, though it wouldn't surprise me.**

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For your viewing pleasure

Scans of the Mali K7 CD release in 1999, courtesy of Scott:

What good detectives we are.  Oumou and Kassim, no Baba Salah, and as an added bonus, I'm happy to see Djeneba Seck listed as well.

Post script:  In my excitement to make digital these wonders of Wassoulou culture, Bambara culture, West African...etc., I overlooked what I now realize is an important step.  You may be aware that my cassettes were not digitized at an optimal bitrate (rather at 128kbps), so I propose this: every new cassette I digitize will be at a higher bitrate.  And, as I have time to work through some of the old tapes (which are currently 1986.05 miles/3196.24km away from me), I'll post them, because I too, would enjoy the improved quality.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

K7-7: Nabintou Diakite

La Nouvelle Revelation du Wassoulou is another solid cassette from the region--more undiluted beauty, as someone described the previous cassette to me.  Nabintou's is a little more dynamic than that of Doussouba Traore; less driving, you may notice.  However, that is not to say one is any better or worse than the other.

Nabintou, I believe, is Oumou Sangare's cousin and was a backing vocalist in her group.  I wouldn't be surprised if Oumou is singing on this one too.  In fact, I think members of Oumou's group are probably playing on this tape.  I saw a roster for the musicians on another of Nabintou's tape, which included Kassim Sidibe, who I know was Oumou's kamelengoni player.  

The kamelengoni on this tape is a prominent feature, largely leading the music.  On some tracks, the longer cycles of melody it plays before repeating, fills a more melodic role than it usually has on other tapes by Bintou Sidibe or Aissata Sidibe, where it is primarily a rhythm machine with short fills and fast solos that allow more instrumentation to be layered on top for the main melody.


**If you recall from my post about Seydou Camara, I have had great success tracking down the out of print text, as well as some other interesting resources.  When I get something coherent together I'll be sure to share**

**Enjoy scenic downtown Bamako, pictured up top.  Amadou Toumani Toure's palais présidentiel looms atop the hill, which is also where you can find Point G, one of the two main hospitals in Bamako and greater Mali.  If you get lost wandering the angled streets use the cathedral with the clock as a landmark--it helps**

Friday, January 29, 2010

K7-5: The Jatta Brothers - Joola Akonting from Gambia. K7-6: Groupe Le Fogny - Joola pop from Casamance.

This was the last recording I made while in West Africa in 2007, a rather serendipitous occasion for a few reasons.  I left a friend's house in Casamance by road, en route to Dakar to return home and stopped in Gambia for a week.  I had previously read about the akonting here, and got the fancy idea to seek it out.   I was initially intrigued by the akonting and it's music, especially after having listened to heavy doses of griot-style music at the time, because I learned that it's music was purely recreational, as opposed to ceremonial.  So, as Shlomo Pestcoe's article indicated (click the above link if you haven't), I went to Mandinary.  Along the way I met a friendly man who was able to set me up with a home-base, so to speak.

When asking around, I was told about an old man around town who was known to play the akonting well.  I met his grandsons (pictured above) at his door-way and they told me that their grampa had been in far eastern Gambia for some time and they didn't know when he was to return, but also that they could play for me.  We picked the next night for our petite soirée and it passed with great success.

This particular instrument they were playing had three strings, only two of which are fretted; I'm not quite sure what is considered 'standard'.  The percussion behind the akonting is a butter-knife on a beer bottle, most likely Flag or Gazelle.  I think I remember the bottle being green, so it was probably Gazelle, which is actually out of Dakar--not too far away.  

My editing is a bit rough on this one, some of the songs start/stop abruptly in an effort to cut out unrelated pre- or post-music conversation; please don't let that detract from the fun music.  Also, I was paranoid about the beer bottle's volume peaking and cutting while I was recording so I kept adjusting the mic level; therefore, some tracks are noticeably louder than others.

Alas, since that recording is rather short, here's another piece of Joola music to satisfy your ears; not my recording, but a more contemporary (2004 or 2006) tape I copied while in Ziguinchor, Senegal.  The band is Groupe Le Fogny; they are well known throughout Gambia and Ziguinchor.  The drums being played are the bougarabou of the Casamance region.  If you listen closely with your linguistically-discerning ears, you may notice the many similarities between the Joola sung on this cassette and the Bambara from previous posts.  But, as linguistics is not my field, I'll leave you to whatever research you choose to do in this vast internet ocean to figure out the relationship.

Here's a video, there are others (not mine) and I only chose this one because I like this singers voice the best:

**Fun facts:  The name Fogny was taken from the word efogne, which means 'to sing' in Joola (from the band website).  Also, fogny is the name of a particular grain from the Casamance region of Séné-Gambia, as well as the name of the specific region at the upper Gambie and Casamance rivers.  Read all about it and other agricultural matters concerning the Joola, buried in the dense French text of this 1984 research paper**