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**


Spinning said...

Just found out about your blog via the estimable worldservice - thanks so much for the photos, informative text, and the music (natch!)

best regards,

Wassoulou said...

Glad you're here.

thursdayborn said...

this blog is fucking awesome. thank you!