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Traditional Djembe - What's the point? - Page 2 - Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
Hope your group takes off Paul. :)

Good point about the foreign languages when trying to learn foreign music.

e2c - what do you think about the harmonizing in these 2 pieces? A nice example of someone who has understood complex harmonies. She is a native of Mauritania with who learned to sing starting at age 10 with her grandmother. They are just samples of some stuff we're working on but you'll get the point I believe.

http://files1.mailboxdrive.com/mp3s-new ... 976602.mp3

http://files1.mailboxdrive.com/mp3s-new ... 976611.mp3

Thanks for so many people responding.
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By e2c
Nice samples there! and you're right, she's really good. :)

Something I meant to mention earlier: that a great many people in the world have had - and continue to have - ongoing exposure to and awareness of many kinds of American popular music, and to Western (European) music in general. With us and other kinds of music, well - not so much, although that's slowly changing. (Probably has a lot to do with our monolingualness; most Americans are pretty resistant to hearing lyrics in other languages, still.) My hat is off to all those who can easily speak 2+ other languages and do so simply because they need to; no formal study involved. (Which means I'm talking about large parts of W. Africa...)

A friend who spent a great deal of time issuing African popular recordings here (in the US and in Europe) has told me that Bamako in the 70s was a paradise for records of all kinds - that many rare (in Europe and the US) LPs could be bought there for very low prices. People hear what they hear, and in larger cities, that can mean many things. (I think NYC is a good example of this, from salsa to Puerto Rican, Dominican, West Indian, Cuban, Brazilian et. al. + various kinds of European Jewish music to who knows what all else... some African music for sure, though I'm not sure that it's made as much impact locally - yet - as many other genres from other countries have...) Trade and commerce make for all kinds of unexpected influences and juxtapositions... (Like early country singer Jimmie Rodgers' popularity - back when - in many African countries. His guitar style was very influential, believe it or not. And then there are all the Cuban records HMV's local divisions sold throughout Africa, and... )

And (not to lay it on too thick, but)... singers like Frank Sinatra were idolized by Egyptian teenagers back in the 50s and early 60s. You can also see a ton of Hollywood influences (assimilated and worked into something new) in Egyptian movie musicals from the 1930s on - much like Bollywood. :) (Even Nollywood, for that matter, though not re. musicals, since they're so rarely made in the US these days.)

e. [/end semi-threadjack] ;)
Last edited by e2c on Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Hey Rusty,

Thanks for posting the samples. I am thinking, damn... when can I buy the album? LOL. You guys sound great!

When I was in Mali, we did a bit of recording of some of my teacher's pieces. We had a young woman doing the vocals and I was struck by how incredibly subtle her timing was. She also floated around the sharps and flats effortlessly. I was blown away by it. It was moments like that when I realized I have a lifetime of study ahead of me. :-)
Djoba is amazing, glad you both liked it. more samples of her up on our site if you want to hear more (www.vagabontribe.com). Should have the Cd done by spring. Lamine is currently putting some guitar and mandolin tracks on it in Bamako. Do a bit of polishing when he is done, then off to mix and master in Asheville. whoo-hoo!!!

I literally feel thankful everyday for all of the knowledge and feeling Lamine gave me. Never would have imagined i could compose music like that. Some of my friends have a difficult time understanding how i could compose softer music after being such a hardcore jenbe enthusiast for so long. Thanks Lamine!!!

i switched from playing in C to C# to F a few months ago, and now am recording a couple of songs in F#. she just sings however she wants, effortlessly in any key, never at a loss for words or melody, or harmony. Just incredible really.

I remember Lamine getting so frustrated with a lot of singer's he worked with in Mali because of their lack of originality. so I was surprised to find this young lady here in mauritania of all places. Hope my work with her can give her the push she needs. She is already way beyond anything I can do for her, musically. I'm just lucky she seems to like working with me.
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By e2c
I'm not surprised that you met a brilliant singer in Mauritania: talented (and I mean really talented) people are everywhere. But most of them are never "known" outside of their own families, circles of friends, and maybe places of work or worship. Besides that, from what little I know of Mauritanian music, they've got some pretty gifted musicians and singers up there (besides your friends, that is). ;)

One of the most gifted guitarists I have ever had the privilege to hear plays once a week at a raw bar in Baltimore. He doesn't care about recognition or money or being recorded; he just loves playing. Another (same instrument) worked as a professional musician for many years, and has only had time to devote to composing now that he's retired. He's completely unknown, and likes it that way (though "completely" is something of a misnomer; he gigs locally and teaches).

I think that for a lot of people, the satisfaction is in the doing itself, whether it's cooking, sculpting, playing music, writing, painting, making well-crafted furniture or being able to tell good stories. :)

All that said, my very best wishes go out to Djoba, Lamine and all the rest of your band - and you, too, R. :)
I'm reminded of a friend of mine, an American who kills it on congas, who once said that if Cuba ever opened the flood gates all the American conga players would be out of work. There are so many amazing musicians around the world, sitting at home, farming, working subsistence jobs, never having an opportunity to make something of themselves in the music world. Then, people like myself, average musicians with access to education and financial resources are able to do what we want with our lives. kind of a bummer really.

Which then brings us back to our original topic. Why would foreigners need to be involved in traditional drumming? Maybe, for no other reason than to just see what is out there, develop a larger perspective on the world. For someone like myself it is easy to be goal driven and focused. others are just there to have the experience.

Honestly, what kind of people work full-time jobs, spend thousands of dollars to go to a 3rd world country and probably get sick in the process, play an instrument and a style of music that may never really be integrated into their daily lives?

Obviously, a lot of us
I don't really know the answer to why I did it. But I do think it is critical that at least some of us nutballs do.

Something changed for me, in Mali. And even though I would be hardpressed to explain it, I think I brought that something back with me. My teacher wanted me to go because he knew that unless we experience it ourselves, Americans have no clue about Africa. It frustrates him. And the only solution is for someone to get on a plane and go.

One day, Sidy (my teacher) happened to notice that I had a little green plastic cup sitting on the shelf in the bathroom.

"Where did that come from?" he asked.

"I brought it with me." I said.

He was thunderstruck. He realized that I must have brought it because I wasn't sure if there would be drinking glasses in Mali. He still makes relentless fun of me about it. Obviously I didn't consciously do it for that reason.... but really, when was the last time I brought a plastic cup when I traveled? He was right.

So, here's the thing. I can not sit down and tell you about Mali. I can barely even speak about my experiences there, for some reason. But the mere fact of having been there has changed something in me and I believe that change is good. And I believe that change has a bigger impact than just me.

Or not, LOL.
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By Michel
I am not feeling strange about the fact that I am going to look for the tradition. After 8 years of having lessons in the Netherlands, with a Bamana teacher, I got really inspired to look for the context. I discovered everybody studies jenbe for their own reasons. In my class there are students who just study for fun, every monday one and an half hour hitting a goatskin and go home, forget everything when they got home and starting again the next monday. For some it is sometimes like an autistic attempt to try to understand the rhythm. For some it is the case that they want to know everything about the instrument, the story behind it, the culture and the context.

For me it is almost disrespectfull to the teacher not to be interested in his background and how he experiences his music. But I am one of the few in my class... In my opinion you have to start with learning the tradition, because the only people I find inspiring enough to get me going with Mande Music are the Mande people. I think it's hard to keep inspired to train the techniques if you haven't got great examples who show you what is possible with the instrument. I will never play as a soloist on a wedding in Bamako. I know that. But for me the only way to get to a stage where I feel free to do what I want with the jenbe is to start somewhere. And that is in the tradition. So I am joining Sidiki Camara's drumcamp in Mali for 3 weeks!! Haha!
Hey Rusty,

I didn't get a sense of you trashing traditional djembe at all. I think you raised some interesting questions... ones that all of us who study a folk instrument from a different culture will, at one point or another, have to grapple with.

Michel, I am so happy that you are going to Mali to study. I spent a lot of my time there with a big stupid grin on my face, just soaking the whole thing in. I loved being embedded in a Malian family, so to speak. I would think that your experience will be similar. It gave us the opportunity to experience things we never would have if we had traveled there as tourists or as part of a western group of some kind.
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By e2c
VagabonTribe wrote:Hope nobody takes this string as me trashing traditional djembe. I was just sharing some of my own experience and thoughts.
Not at all - though you *do* like to play devil's advocate, I think. ;)

I appreciate the convo about playing djembe in other contexts... and think that's something that (maybe, if we're humble about it) Westerners might just be able to contribute to the ongoing growth of the tradition, along with Africans who are doing similar things.

As I mentioned earlier, I've got some friends who've done intense study of various non-Western classical/traditional instruments. And some of them have worked closely with teachers who are deliberately adding *new* things to the traditions and culture surrounding those instruments. Their teachers do get slams from people who feel that that kind of innovation is wrong, but one of the teachers has stated publicly that they believe it would literally be disrespectful to not be working on finding new contexts for the instruments, along with new and innovative ways to play, adding new pieces to the repertoire, etc. I like that a lot. :)
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