Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In review--Groovin' to n'goni

Sibiri Samakè
Bamana Hunter Music
Dambe Foli
System Krush

Every traditional culture has its healing plants, magic, and sacred music.  The Donso (hunter) of Mali is no exception.  Finding roots in the ancient Mande Kingdom of West Africa, the Donso once were in service to the Great Mande King Sunjata Keita, who you hear about a lot in the traditional music and history of Mali. The Donso served as soldiers for the king, along with providing spiritual healing and nourishment to their communities.

True the traditional songs, sung in their original language, that appear on Dambe Foli possess a trance and ritualistic aura. While the liner notes supply me with information about each of the song-sets, I can barely read the font in which the information appears.  From what I can glean the album contains praise songs (not uncommon with traditional Malian music), protection spells, and ceremonial songs.  The Donso n’goni (not to be confused with the banjo-like n’goni of Mali), shakers and scrapers (percussion) act as a backdrop for hypnotic vocals in a musical conversation, sounds closer to ritualistic chants than singing, though occasionally, the lead singer’s (Sibiri Samakè) vocals swoop upward.

In describing the Donso n’goni, this bass harp has a large calabash (gourd) as its bass and in which strings stretch upward reminding me of another West African harp instrument, the kora.  The instrument emits a throaty jangling sound, with no better words to describe it. And the music performed by the Donso musicians reminds me of music of the Tuareg and the Desert blues of the late Ali Farka Toure.  Anyone who enjoys hypnotic West African blues will find this recording of interest.  And as you listen more deeply to this album, you feel your brain fall into a relaxed state.  In fact, I just feel like lulling about rather than writing a review.


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