I just listened to “Naani”, the new CD by Sanza. Sanza has four members:
Drissa Kone hardly needs an introduction, being among the most respected and well-known professional djembe players in Bamako. Of the currently active professionals there, he probably best represents the minimalist traditional Malian style.
Gerhard Kero plays dundun and konkoni on this recording. He is a long-time student of Drissa and, together with Ulli Sanou, runs the beatfactory percussion school in Austria.
Ulli Sanou, also a long-time student of Drissa, plays accompaniment djembe.
Oumou Mariko is a professional dancer from Bamako. While you won’t be able to see her brilliant dancing on the CD, you will hear her voice, which is stunningly beautiful.
There are eleven tracks on the CD, recorded in excellent sound quality by Otto Trapp:
1. Deme sebe
3. Mali Fasa
7. I Ka Wale
11. Eh Mogolu
The names are modern because these are not strictly traditional rhythms. Instead, they are current-day interpretations that are based on traditional rhythms. For example, Deme Sebe has its roots in Madan, I Ka Wale in Sunu, Nyumaya in Suku, Juguya in Garangedon. and Sanfinye is a modern interpretation of Bolokonondo.
Drissa, Gerhard, and Ulli lay down a groove on these tracks that is incredibly relaxed and, above everything else, musical. This is one of the most melodic djembe recordings in my collection. Drissa’s playing is soulful and expressive, clearly coming from a Malian traditional base, but infused with modern style elements that allow him more freedom of expression than purely traditional phrasing would. Gerhard’s dundun work is flawless, played with both precision and feeling, and Ulli’s accompaniment rock-solid.
Every track feature’s Oumou’s beautiful vocals. Her singing is out of this world. Rich, expressive, and warm, without some of the shrill variations that are often part of the traditional style, it is easy to get immersed in the melodies.
The overall result is a recording that is extremely easy to listen to. This isn’t a recording only for African drumming aficionados, but something that even the non-cognoscenti will enjoy. There are no complex ballet-style arrangements, and there is no wara wara from Drissa. That’s not to say that he plays slowly. It’s just that Drissa’s experience tempers the playing such that the music is never forgotten, and he never steps over the line where his playing would degenerate into showing off. There is none of the “see how fast I can play” egotistical wizardry, only music that is played with incredible feel and respect. In my opinion, Drissa’s blend of modern and traditional style firmly establishes him as the Toumani Diabaté of the djembe world.
I consider this one of the best recordings in my collection. It certainly has made my top-ten list, and I expect it to become a classic of contemporary Malian style. Five stars out of five!
The CD can be purchased directly from Gerhard Kero on his website Beat Factory.
We’re giving away 2 free copies of the CD. To be entered in this draw, all you have to do is like our post about the Naani CD give away on the djembefola.com facebook page.