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!


John B. said...


Jax said...

That's my favorite picture I've seen of yours yet....awesome!!!!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

beautiful 4:20 treat for the world!!!

Anna said...

God, flies are so demanding.

Wassoulou said...

For your convenience and enjoyment, listen to the story of Samory Toure as a book-on-tape at globalgroove.blogspot.com! Good timing.

Carrie said...

great art, Tim. I like those explanations of types of songs too.

Bon travail.

slj3 said...

Hi, Wassoulou!Sékou and Samory actually wore the same family name, Touré, one of the most important families of the Manding empire.But alas, I suppose there is no real and direct relation between these two persons if not political propaganda!(In fact, nowadays in Guinea, you could be a Soussou for instance and wear a manding family name...)Samory probably had numerous children but none of them is the father of Sékou, even by the kitchen backdoor!!kind regards. Stéphane.

NGONI said...

Hello, I think the ink and the music are great friends.

I found this tape of Oromo music and remembered your request, greetings.