Discuss culture and traditions
By johnc
This I would like to know more about if it does not contravine traditional boundries of intiation and so forth.

Even general ideas would be appreciated

By bubudi
hi john, how did i know you would ask this question? :wink:

the languages of west africa tend to be tonal and therefore drums are conducive to reproducing verbal messages. however, there is also an emotional message embedded in the music which words can only attempt to crudely and clumsily explain.

the maninka/bamana/susu drum language has almost totally been lost. abdoulaye diakite has talked about the solo he learned for ngri from his teacher. that solo is supposed to tell the story of a famous dancer's pregnancy. he has also talked about one of the 'passport' djembe phrases, citing a bambara phrase that corresponds to it. however, it's pretty hard to find a maninka/bamana teacher that knows such things. in nigeria, ghana, togo and benin you will readily find drummers who know the drum language which directly corresponds to tonal speech patterns.

in senegal, where wolof is the dominant language in much of the country, many drummers will take a sabar accompaniment phrase or bakk and be able to tell you what it means. for instance, taggu mbar contains a prayer reproduced on the drums. we have a sabar master here called pape mbaye who showed me how sabar soloists can convey hidden messages in the music. a regular wolof person will miss it, but a drummer who has gotten used to the sabar drum language (not difficult for a wolof speaker) will be able to understand. he demonstrated a phrase and then said to me what it meant in wolof. he said one time he heard a soloist use that to another drummer who was picking up the money that someone had thrown to the first drummer for his solo performance. the phrase he played for the benefit of the other drummer translated to: 'hey motherfucker, leave my money alone!'
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By e2c
Not to detract from anything in your most recent post, bubudi, but I have a few thoughts on this.

I believe some people (like John Miller Chernoff, author of African Rhythm and African Sensibility, which is regularly used in university-level "world music" courses here in the US) have done a great disservice to the study of African music by taking statements that may well be true about the music they studied in X country (in Chernoff's case, Ghana) and applying them to the entire continent and its music.

In Chernoff's case, that includes sweeping statements that African languages are tonal - by which he means (AFAIK) all of them, or close to all of them. (Though I have to add that his book is really good; just take the generalities with a grain of salt!)

Personally, I believe it's important to avoid this kind of broad-brush treatment and find out as much as possible about the culture(s) and languages of the places where the music comes from... And although I'm no linguist, I have my doubts about all languages in Guinea, Mali, Senegambia, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, etc. being tonal by default.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the jury's out on that one, until someone shows convincing proofs of this, and not just anecdotes applied in a too-general way.

Not long ago i was reading about talking drum "language" in (I think) Senegal - but it may have been Mali-style ntama, or Ghanian music, or Nigerian. At any rate, one of the main points that the author made was that the music was not comprehensible as a replication of spoken language to anyone but the drummers who were playing it. (Like bubudi's sabar illustration above.)

Make of that what you will. (i really need to dig up the source on that, so you guys can check it out, too.)

Sometimes I think we hear what we want to hear, especially when it makes for a good story. (And that's not to say that there's no relationship to spoken language, either, but I just want to urge us all to be careful not to jump to conclusions...)

[As an aside, I've recently seen someone make a 1:1 correspondence between spoken American English and jazz drumming that had me wanting to tear my hair out! The person who was on about it has an overriding belief that jazz soloing is about "telling a story" and insists that at least one 20th-c. drummer was actually playing phrases that translated into English as "dirty motherf*cker" and such. I have this sneaking feeling that the drummer in question might have done this for master classes by way of illustrating some things about repetitive rhythms in both music and speech, but as an absolute thing, no way.]
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By bops
I learned a lot of those phrases when I was studying sabar. The only jembe teacher I've had who cited Malinke phrases as the source for jembe patterns was Famoudou Konate.

Yaay nuy mom, yaay nuy mom, yaay nuy mom
Maam Bamba yaay nuy mom
Dunyi bundup, dunyi deeyup, yaay nuy mom
Maam Bamba yaay nuy mom
[going by memory here - spelling isn't necessarily accurate]

This is a traditional Wolof verse honoring Cheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride brotherhood. This is commonly played on sabar.
bops wrote:I learned a lot of those phrases when I was studying sabar. The only jembe teacher I've had who cited Malinke phrases as the source for jembe patterns was Famoudou Konate.
bolokada has taught me tons of phrases on djembe and the translation in malinke. dununs also.
By bubudi
bops & duga, could you give some examples of malinke phrases that correspond to djembe/dunun patterns?

a lot of blues guitarists use non-verbal signals on their guitars to convey emotions & add humour... jimmy hendrix reproduced the wolf whistle on his guitar among other things.
In the old interviews on rootsy records Abdoulaye diakate says that the rhythm
s s t t s means "take it or leave it"... i think he was talkin about sounou at the time,

I§ve heard of the djembe rhythym tt S S being used,by guineans, to describe the d di Bunka tribe in mali, cos it sounds alike, dudu Da Da =- didibunka

this next one is a bit of fun too, A part of a Solo for Liberty, dundun player answers with a yeah, hell yell etc with loud beats at the end of the phrazes and 4 hits on the bsss..
ssss ttt ss, ssss ttt ss , ssss ttttt sssssss, bsss , tttssssssssstttsssssssss.S t t tt t
R u ready, Rureally ready,RuRRReally ready,lets go,acceleration . call
By bubudi
keanie, i'm kinda getting the drift with the liberte stuff, but it's hard to tell what accompaniments you're talking about with the first 2 examples. notation is much easier to read if you use the 'code' box while you are editing the message. this will make all the letters and spaces a uniform width so they line up... like this:
Code: Select all
s  ss tts  ss tts  ss tts  ss tt
here's how it looks like without the code tag:
s ss tts ss tts ss tts ss tt

note that i typed it the same, but without the code tag, it came out messed up!

i can remember that abdoulaye diakite interview. i'll have to dig it up and find the bambara phrase that he used for that accompaniment.
By bubudi
bops wrote:basa ti mbara ba = the head of the gecko
thanks, yea i got taught that one too... also, in hamana the kenkeni is known as 'kensereni' and the name came from the phrase it plays in the dunun rhythms: ken se re, ken se re. i'm not sure if that means anything in malinke or is just onomatopoeic?

do you know any malinke vocalisations for any of the djembe accompaniments?