Today's Group 1 class finished off Zaouli 6. We spent quite a bit of time at the end of the class having fun, playing Zaouli and using breaks 5 and 6.
Group 2 is struggling a bit with Zaouli 7 and isn't through learning the break yet. About a third of it still remains to learn.
The pyramid class continued to work on Mamady's insane break (and actually finished it--sound clip below). During the pyramid class, Mamady passed on a lot of interesting info. First up, I got the origin of this break wrong: Mamady didn't do this in his Ivory Coast days in the Eighties, but earlier, in Guinea in 1977, which is when he composed the entire pyramid.
Mamady related quite a bit of the history of the ballets. Basically, the early ballets were modelled on the European ballets, where the orchestra was hidden in an orchestra pit, so it wouldn't distract the audience from the dance. With the African ballets, they did the same, only the musicians were hidden in the side stage. (If you watch early Ballet Africains videos, you don't get to see any musicians.)
Mamady (at Ballet Djoliba) and Famoudou (at Ballet Africains) had both been trying to get the musicians involved a little bit more in the performance. So, occasionally, when there was a particularly outstanding solo dancer, the lead djembefola would come out on stage and be visible while he marked the dancer's steps, but the remaining musicians remained hidden.
On one occasion, Sekou Toure was watching a rehearsal and came up on stage to congratulate Mamady and the ballet director on the outstanding performance of the musicians. With that in his pocket, Mamady approached the director with the idea of putting the musicians on stage to perform his pyramid. (The idea of a rhythm pyramid had started some time earlier but, up to that point, the pyramids were short and not very complex.) The director could hardly refuse after the president had just personally remarked on the quality of the musicians, so Mamady got his chance.
When they first played the pyramid for the remainder of the ballet, the main comment was that it was great, but too long--it had to be shorter. (This was a ground-breaking and quite radical change for its day, giving the musicians center stage, when they previously been carefully hidden away). In the end, they performed the version that Mamady is teaching us right now. The break alone is about three minutes long. Technically, it's not hard; the biggest problem is remembering it all. (But we are doing well--it's hanging together nicely already and will get better over the next few days.)
By the way, essentially the same break is on Mamady's Afö CD, at the end of Moribayassa. Mamady said that, once they had performed this pyramid on stage, that was the end of anyone ever hiding the musicians again for a ballet performance. So, this pyramid is special because it is the first really long one, the first one to give center stage to the musicians, and because it changed the way ballets presented themselves thereafter.
I've uploaded a sound clip of the break in media secion.
Last edited by michi on Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
4 Comments Viewed 90302 times
nice. I learned that break at the first US camp (before they called it Mini Guinea) in 2004 in valencia, CA. good stuff!
should i shave my moustache?
thanks michi! in the 1968 performance of les ballets africains (anniversary of the united nation's declaration of human rights), famoudou konate is featured soloing. the other musicians are kind of hidden away.
what year was this pyramid created, and what rhythms were originally in it?
The pyramid was created in 1977. I can be sure of only the first rhythm in the pyramid, which is Sira. Because it took so long to learn the break for that, Mamady deviated from his original plan and changed the remainder of the pyramid to something that was achievable. Today, he apologized for having only two 6/8s--he said he did this so that people would have chance to solo (because most people find it easier to solo to a 4/4 than a 6/8). Still, we went through the whole thing today, and it's starting to sound very impressive. I look forward to the performance on Saturday evening.
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