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Author:  michi [ Wed May 05, 2010 10:51 pm ]
Blog Subject:  Mini-Guinea San Diego, May 2010, day 7

Day 7 (Tuesday) of the camp.

The intermediate group went over Deniya again and then started a new rhythm (6/8) called Sumalo. This rhythm was composed by Mamady and dates back to 1964. It was part of Ballet Djoliba's first repertoire, created on Kassa Island off the coast of Conakry. The ballet performance was called "The Mother". There was a king called Sumalo who was killed in a war. The king's son went to his mother and said "Give me my father's sword so I can go to the war and avenge his death." The son goes to fight in the war and gets killed as well. The performance piece was quite patriotic, reflecting the recent revolutionary spirit of the time. The woman who played the mother is called Fatadabo and now works in Mamady's household in Conakry.

Another interesting snippet about Ballet Djoliba... Of the 500 people who were originally selected from the regional competitions and moved to Kassa Island, 45 were selected to form what eventually became Ballet Djoliba. (Five of these artists were percussionists, Mamady being one of them). However, Ballet Djoliba had not even been conceived of at that time. Instead, Harry Belafonte was (at least one of) the instigators to use the musicians in a project of his own. However, around that time, Guinea took quite decisive steps toward the left and aligned itself with the communist block, and relations between Guinea and the US soured, and Harry Belafonte lost interest in (or maybe was advised not to proceed with) the project. Ballet Djoliba was formed only after Belafonte's project died.

Mamady taught a few of the original breaks for Sumalo. They are technically very simple to play, but quite surprising because of their placement. Very effective breaks that can be used with many 6/8 rhythms to good effect.

The advanced group finished the solo for Soliwulen and moved on to the solo original for Yankadi. I learned that solo years ago, so it's not particularly interesting to me. Still, I'm picking up bits and pieces here and there, so the time isn't wasted. Mamady told quite a few stories about Yankadi and its history, including a nice comedy performance about the importance of playing Yankadi before playing Macru :)

The pyramid class continued with Djaa leading into Djansa, and Djanse leading into Macru. We learned a number of cool breaks for the transitions between the rhythms.

It is clear that Mamady has abandoned his initial plan for the pyramid. It took too long to get through the Sira break, so there is now not enough time remaining to learn the pyramid he had initially planned. So, he's making things up pretty much on the spot. That's not to say that they are lacking in interest though. Basically, by falling back on rhythms that most people know, he can save a lot of time and focus on creating interesting breaks and transitions. (I'm a little disappointed though that I'll miss out on learning the original pyramid as Ballet Djoliba performed it in the late seventies.)

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