djembé ears, sessés

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djembé ears, sessés

Postby davidognomo » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:23 am

hi

does anyone know about any code or rules about the use of the ears on the djembe?

I bought a guinean djembe and got the ears, but the guy who gave them to me told me not to put them on in front of people from the mandeng.

On the videos I have access to sometimes it seems that only the 1st soloist has them on his djembe, other times I see all the djembe players using the ears, even when it's a performance with africans and westerns sharing the stage. It's confusing. It doesn't seem to exist one single code.

And what about the coloured roping around the body of the djembe? It's only made for performances, right? Only aesthetics, or something more?

thanks
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby davidognomo » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:23 am

ok, I've just found out at the drumskull site the name of the ears: ksing ksing.

so, and I've noticed that the members here at djembefola.com have these rankings, I dond't know what to call it, and the highest ranks are like 1 ksing ksing and 2 ksing ksing.

So, there must be a meaning for the use of ksing ksing on a djembe.

séssé is the term used in the Les Percussions de Guinée album.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby michi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:58 am

davidognomo wrote:On the videos I have access to sometimes it seems that only the 1st soloist has them on his djembe, other times I see all the djembe players using the ears, even when it's a performance with africans and westerns sharing the stage. It's confusing. It doesn't seem to exist one single code.

There is no code. I specifically asked two of my teachers, Mamady Keïta and Epizo Bangoura, whether there is any status or rules of etiquette associated with seke seke. They told me that the seke seke are there to make the djembe more beautiful and to give it a richer sound. Both told me that anyone can attach seke seke to their drum any time they like, regardless of their ability or whom they are playing with without causing offense or breaching etiquette.

And what about the coloured roping around the body of the djembe? It's only made for performances, right? Only aesthetics, or something more?

Aesthetics only, no other reason.

Cheers,

Michi.
Last edited by michi on Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby bubudi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:24 am

hi david,

i first heard about a code for the ears (bamana: sege sege, nenyeme; malinke: seke seke; susu: sese; mandinka/wolof: ksink ksink) in a recorded interview of master drummer abdoulaye diakite. more information about him is available in this thread. in the interview abdoulaye said that these ears indicate the person's level of playing, that they are given to a player by their master. the interviews were available on rootsyrecords.com for a time and were also podcast via itunes as a limited edition series called 'djembe radio'. because of this it received a worldwide audience. to date, this is the only teacher i have ever heard talk about any code around these. it's very possible that such a code existed many years ago (possibly hundreds of years ago), at least somewhere in the mande region (possibly segou and tambacounda).

the fact is, in the capital cities, the current generations of master drummers (and those who passed away in recent years) were not aware of any such code, and seeing that they come from diverse regions (wasolon, bamako, hamana, kankan, faranah, conakry, ivory coast, burkina faso, etc), it's safe to say that the code doesn't currently exist in the majority of mande.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby e2c » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:53 am

Hmm... I'd think the logical thing to pick up on is - how long have sese existed?

When did they come into being?

I realize that there will be no hard and fast answers to those questions, but it does seem as if sese in their present form have a lot to do with the availability of wide-ish flat pieces of pre-forged metal.

I really cannot imagine that sese of the same kind existed in the distant past (whether 70 years or 700), if only because the ore would have to have been mined and then fashioned into the kinds of relatively thin sheet metal that we have today. The mining part would have been both highly labor-intensive as well as costly, and I somehow doubt that drummers would have been able to afford objects that were so expensive.

All that would seem to indicate that sese as we know them are a pretty recent innovation. "Ancient" is (imo) very relative in this context.

[p.s. - I know this was discussed on another thread a year or so ago... haven't the time to look it up now, but there were no hard and fast conclusions there, either.]

I realize that this is all hypothesizing, and that maybe I'm all wet, but still...
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby michi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:34 am

I realize that there will be no hard and fast answers to those questions, but it does seem as if sese in their present form have a lot to do with the availability of wide-ish flat pieces of pre-forged metal.

Interesting thought…

One of the first wide-spread uses of cheap sheet metal was the tin can, invented in 1810 in Britain. The British were already well established in Africa by then, and it seems reasonable to assume that the tin can made its way into Africa not long after its invention.

In Europe, sheet metal was available much earlier. Plate armor appeared in the early 15th century. I have no idea at what time sheet metal appeared in Africa though.

At any rate, I agree in that it seems plausible to assume that sheet metal would have been in short supply in Africa prior to the early 1800s or so. But it also seems safe to assume that it would have been easily available at least in the colonies by 1850, if not sooner.

Cheers,

Michi.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby michi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:42 am

bubudi wrote:in the interview abdoulaye said that these ears indicate the person's level of playing, that they are given to a player by their master.


That's really interesting! Also in direct conflict with what I've been told by Epizo and Mamady. I have not doubt that they are right when it comes to recent history.

it's very possible that such a code existed many years ago (possibly hundreds of years ago), at least somewhere in the mande region (possibly segou and tambacounda).

Certainly, looking at seke seke, they convey this sense of being a badge of some kind, somewhat like chevrons on a military uniform, or a crown on a king… When I first started playing, I automatically assumed that you had to "earn" seke seke in some way, and when I asked one of my first teachers, he told me that "it wouldn't be appropriate for you to use seke seke when you are playing with me". It was only years later that it occurred to me to ask Epizo and Mamady.

it's safe to say that the code doesn't currently exist in the majority of mande.

Yes, I agree. Current musicians attach no status or significance to seke seke with respect to the skill or seniority of a player.

Cheers,

Michi.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby tanamasi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:48 pm

hi,
i think that it is natural to associate embellishments such as sege sege with status (irrespective of whether it was like that in history). The rope wrap has the same effect for me, though it is probably a fairly recent innovation. in that sense, seeing a beginner play with sege sege and rope wrap is infrequent. i guess it's like the use of the label 'djembefola'. in africa whoever plays the djembe is a djembefola irrespective of the level, but we tend to use that label for masters or really skilled players.

anyway, one factor that may play a role in the spread and use of the sege sege is the fact that traditionally djembefolas were blacksmiths (though we know there were no caste restrictions). a priori, if somebody could craft sege sege down there, it was the blacksmiths. though framing the discussion in terms of 'sheet metal' certainly changes the picture.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby the kid » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:09 pm

I think its crazy to presume CesseCesse were initial made from sheet metal from Europe. According to this next video there were blacksmiths in West Africa in 500bc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu3TgLNR ... 30&index=6

I guess we just don't or can't imagine the sophisticated culture which existed there. It's good to try do.

I would have thought the cessecesse were around for hundreds of years and were used on the bara (calabash jenbes) probably prior to the invention of the jenbe. (was the bara a pre curser to the jenbe is another story do)

Look at all the buzz instruments. Africans love buzz. And the cessecesse were there to create buzz. Would they have used another method to create the buss even before the advent of metals? Maybe Carob pods. Who knows?
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby the kid » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:13 pm

e2c wrote: I somehow doubt that drummers would have been able to afford objects that were so expensive.

How much would that be? 3 Kola nuts
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby Dugafola » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:50 pm

the kid wrote:Look at all the buzz instruments. Africans love buzz. And the cessecesse were there to create buzz. Would they have used another method to create the buss even before the advent of metals? Maybe Carob pods. Who knows?


i'm addicted to the buzz myself...right now it's the bala buzzzzzz....it's like a drug.

check out this pic from ~1905....looks like sese.
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby e2c » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:01 pm

I meant sese as we know them now.

And I honestly had no intention of saying that African societies and craftsmen were anything less than highly sophisticated, let alone that they hadn't crafted something like contemporary sese prior to the arrival of large metal cans/containers. (Guess I didn't make that clear in my prior post - my bad!)

Look at it this way: in a lot of 20th c. African guitar recordings (from all over the continent), there's Fanta bottle percussion (played with a nail, usually). I'd guess that's because Fanta bottles are extremely cheap, highly available, and produce quite a range of sounds.

Have you ever seen the movie "The Gods Must be Crazy"? A major part of the plot has to do with a Coke bottle and how people who had never seen a Coke bottle before end up putting it to use. (Multiple uses, actually.)

Food for thought... http://www.afrigadget.com/

Image

the kid wrote:I think its crazy to presume CesseCesse were initial made from sheet metal from Europe. According to this next video there were blacksmiths in West Africa in 500bc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu3TgLNR ... 30&index=6

I guess we just don't or can't imagine the sophisticated culture which existed there. It's good to try do.

I would have thought the cessecesse were around for hundreds of years and were used on the bara (calabash jenbes) probably prior to the invention of the jenbe. (was the bara a pre curser to the jenbe is another story do)

Look at all the buzz instruments. Africans love buzz. And the cessecesse were there to create buzz. Would they have used another method to create the buss even before the advent of metals? Maybe Carob pods. Who knows?
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby bubudi » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:34 pm

ok but it seems to me the question the op asked was about the status of sege sege, without reference to what exact type of thin metal they were made from. the ones i've seen in photos from the late 19th century certainly look a lot like the ones we have today, although as michi pointed out, they already had tin cans in the beginning of the 19th century (and since france is so close to britain, it logically follows that their use would have spread to the french colonies in very little time at all).

i'm also reminded of the hajouj/sintir - an instrument very much like the ngoni ba. despite total isolation from their land of origin after they were brought to the maghreb as slaves, the gnawa came up with the same sege sege on this instrument as you see on similar instruments in mande (and which these days is made from a cut tin can). this would tend to support the existence of sege sege before slavery. another interesting fact to note about the hajouj/sintir, is that it is played by the maalem (master).

as for existence of thin metal in africa before contact from the white man, that's going to be hard to prove as the greeks and romans reached there in ancient times, and later the arabs, who did a lot of trade with africa. armour has existed for a very long time and there is a parallel between nado (djembefola hats) and warrior hats so maybe also between sege sege and armour (or gris-gris as was used . it deflects sound, so maybe was also intended to deflect negative energy. i have heard epizo talk about sege sege having this purpose, but have not asked any other teacher.

i agree with the kid in that it's true that buzzing is a feature of many african instruments, and it doesn't necessarily need sekeseke (the spider web egg sacks in the gourds of balas that are today replaced by cigarette paper; the bottle tops used on various lamellophones - gongoma/mbira family of instruments - older versions used shells and other objects). we also see seke seke on the bolon and donsongoni.

so much to learn about and so little time...
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby e2c » Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:40 pm

And there are lyre-shaped instruments (most with bowl or box resonators) all over East Africa, from the Port Said region of Egypt all the way down the coast and into the interior; ditto for sanzas/mbiras in Central Africa and large parts of Southern Africa (and similar instruments in Guinea, and...).

I think a lot of this has to do with culture, memory *and* trade routes. (Just look at the still-existing trade routes that run from india to the Arabian Peninsula to East Africa... even as far down as the northern part of S. Africa.)

I cannot imagine that the Gnawa were totally cut off from contact with sub-Saharan Africa - maybe better to say people from sub-Saharan Africa, any more than I can imagine that North India had no contact with South India.

Sometimes I think our attempts at connecting the dots are ... futile. (speaking of my own attempts; not anyone else's.) Africa is so immense and it has so many different cultures; there are probably millions of points of contact that we would never even be able to guess at.

Another thought: people do reinvent the wheel. (Every day, I think.) Which is another topic entirely, but I believe it very much has to do with creativity, ingenuity, a desire to make something happen, and available materials.

Edited to add: there are likely a raft of "little things" happening every day, on the ground (so to speak), in any given location in Africa, in terms of what people make from scratch, what comes to them by other means, and how they might choose to modify objects/materials that were originally made for another purpose.

As to how, when and where that all happens, only the people from a given location are going to know. I'd think one would have to spend some time - serious time - in a village or town or city to get a feel for these things. (Something I'll likely never be able to do, but what the hey.)

We have the same kinds of things going on all around us, after all...
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Re: djembé ears, sessés

Postby Paul » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:37 pm

davidognomo wrote:I bought a guinean djembe and got the ears, but the guy who gave them to me told me not to put them on in front of people from the mandeng.

Yeah, they will tale the piss out of you..

I love a deadly buzz myself.
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