Discuss culture and traditions
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By djembefeeling
Last weekend, I met a drummer at the Africa festival in Würzburg, Germany, who used to travel to the Hamana villages regularly. We talked a lot about how difficult it is to play this music on a serious level here for there are only few drummers with the skills and the will to work hard scattered all over the country. We also talked about the limited picture of the culture that is usually provided in workshops, where the "we are all one family living in harmony" picture is often painted. He told me about the scary feeling of fear created in traditional feasts where masks are included and how secretive the Malinke are, how hard it is to understand what is really going on. Most often, he had to conlude from the few words he understood and the general situation what was going and, and that hardly coincided with what he was told was going on. One time in Sangbarala, he played a Krin and two kids seeing him with the Krin were completely scared, until Solo Keita eased their minds telling them that it was just a tourist instrument, not those that are used for sacred rituals. Then he turned to my friend and delivered a copmletely different version why the kids looked so scared. My friend said that masks are less and less used for performances, because the people cannot or rather do not want to cope with the fear loaden atmosphere any more.

Then he told me about the streak of violence that is also part of the Malinke culture and provided the example of Subama Sanyi, a dundunba rhythm that was used to settle conflicts in an often violent way. Blood on the bara was frequent, sometimes one of the opponents died in the fighting. This contradicts much with the sweet melody that is sung on Subama Sanyi. Famoudou Konaté, he said, for a long time didn't want to teach the rhythm due to this violent background. Given the usuall secrecy sourrounding these things, it came as a total surprise to him when he asked a guy in a village casually about human sacrifices in the village and the guy told him without any inhibition about the custom to sacrifies little kids, mostly little girls, when someone wished to influence the spirits positively for something he would really like as recent as the 1980s! A human sacrifice was supposed to be extremely powerful. The guy even showed my friend the place where they used to do the sacrifices in the village and told him that it was not part of a regular ritual, but done occasionally for the wishes of individuals trying to influence their own and their families fate. My friend said he was so surprised to hear this frank talk, and he wouldn't have believed the guy if he wouldn't have hung out with him for a week already and realized that he used to talk straight.

I told my friend that in a workshop with Billy Konaté, we learned the rhythm Konkoba Dunun and the really beautiful song that accompanies the rhythm. In the song, it is asked what we shall sacrifice to the Konkoba for a good harvest (Tu malon di konnkoba saraka), and this is answered with many variants. First it is said we could sacrifice a goat (ba woule kelen di konkoba saraka), which is followed by woro, which is silver, as far as I remember, and then we sang "sunguruni kelen di konkoba saraka", we sacrifice a little girl. I didn't really think about how little girls were sacrificed back then, but now I know that this song litterally means sacrificing a little girl for a good harvest...
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By michi
I spoke to Famoudou once about the violent side of dundunba. His face immediately showed real pain and he said "that was terrible, just terrible". I didn't press him for details after that…