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By James
#21696
I'm trying to create a high quality article about djembe rhythms - please have a look.

I've made a start, but I'm sure I'm missing things. Any advice or help appreciated on the article I've written so far would be really appreciated.

Styles:
I'm a little stuck for example in describing what describes the Guineas style, and the Burkina Style because they're both fast and furious ;)

And the fact that there is even a further break down of styles within Guinea with Susu rhythms and of course Dundunbas from Hamana of course and I'm sure there's plenty more.

Maybe Ballet is a style too?

In fact I'm realising now that "djembe styles" if that's the correct name could be a whole subject onto itself.

What do you all think?
By HawaOuti
#21699
Hi James!

I don't think I can help much, but I have a few questions instead!
In the list of traditional rhythms there are some that are not originally played with djembe:
Lengjen - if it refers to mandinka rhytm in Gambia and Casamance, then it is played with seuruba drums
Warba - mossi rhythm from Burkina? No djembes at least 20 years ago.
Bao - is it played with djembes?
Djole - originally with siko drums
Kebendo - is it a djembe rhythm? I know it is a balafone rhythm but often played with yole
Liberte - djembe, yes, but not traditional (from 1968 or something like that..?)

Just some questions, correct me if I'm wrong! Also it would be nice to know about the baga rhythms, they can't be all originally djembe rhythm, or can they?

I think the fast and furious Guinea or Burkina style is quite recent, even in the 20 years time I have been travelling there the style has changed a lot.
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By Dugafola
#21700
HawaOuti wrote:Hi James!

I don't think I can help much, but I have a few questions instead!
In the list of traditional rhythms there are some that are not originally played with djembe:
Lengjen - if it refers to mandinka rhytm in Gambia and Casamance, then it is played with seuruba drums
Warba - mossi rhythm from Burkina? No djembes at least 20 years ago.
Bao - is it played with djembes?
Djole - originally with siko drums
Kebendo - is it a djembe rhythm? I know it is a balafone rhythm but often played with yole
Liberte - djembe, yes, but not traditional (from 1968 or something like that..?)

Just some questions, correct me if I'm wrong! Also it would be nice to know about the baga rhythms, they can't be all originally djembe rhythm, or can they?

I think the fast and furious Guinea or Burkina style is quite recent, even in the 20 years time I have been travelling there the style has changed a lot.
i believe liberte was based on a traditional fishing rhythm called Tomanka. it's recorded as such by M'bemba Bangoura. I also was told this by Yousouff Koumbassa.
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By Dugafola
#21701
if you want to break this down into playing style by country, i think you may have to have some chronological description as well: Ie evolution of mali style over the years.

I think your description of the malian style is somewhat dated and/our preferred by the older generation or purists of the tradition. correct me if i'm wrong.

also, this article may spark a debate on which style is better...is that what you want?
By HawaOuti
#21704
Oops, sorry, don't mind the year I was referring to, I was thinking about smething else... (I wrote my answer without thinking it through, which is apparently the only way I get to write anything. If I start thinking too much the discussion will be over before I have even written the first post...)

Anyway, interesting to know about tomanka. Is there a dance for tomanka rhythm also?
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By James
#21705
@HawaOuti and Dugafola, thanks for the feedback, I'll add this info in there.
I think your description of the malian style is somewhat dated and/our preferred by the older generation or purists of the tradition. correct me if i'm wrong.
It certainly would describe an older style, for sure, and there's plenty more to go into this article, which is why I'm hoping we can discuss this here, as I'm not expert on this stuff.
also, this article may spark a debate on which style is better...is that what you want?
No I want to produce a high quality article on djembe rhythms, that considers and mentions what it should mention, without getting involved in fruitless this art is better than that art conversations.

I'd like to lay down as close to facts as possible and let people make up their own mind. :mrgreen:
By bubudi
#21706
description of styles is an article in itself, quite a lot to discuss there. i agree that you need to be careful to represent the malian style accurately, that is, in current terms. i would still have to say that on the whole, the guinean style is more fast and furious, whereas the malian style has a more pronounced swing. also, in mali there are some rhythms that change according to the speed played (e.g. sunu, madan, ngri, dansa). however, the malian style is getting faster and the swing and nuances of the language are somewhat less pronounced than they used to be.

burkina is a bit of a hybrid of mali, guinea and ivory coast. the malian rhythms are played a bit differently there, the way they play guinean rhythms is just beautiful, with quite a lot of the guinean flavour, but they do different breaks and the solo language is different. the breaks that coulibaly bros, landaya and others do are some of my favourites. the burkinabe are really into breaks. perhaps the two most important influences that have separated burkinabe djembe music from the others is the degree of bobo influence, and the dominance of djeli-djembefolaw there. it makes it a family tradition, 'in the blood', and so many of the djembefolaw play other instruments equally well (ngoni, bala, etc), some would say it's a more musical way of playing (very subjective), but perhaps not as rooted in the traditional malinke djembe tradition.

ivory coast, senegal, gambia, sierra leone and liberia deserve a small mention as well. ivory coast style has a lot more forest style (maoka, guro, etc) and they also play some of the malian repertoire. 'dununba' is played in mali, ivory coast and burkina although not nearly as much as in guinea. they all do their own version of these rhythms, very much based on ballet style (that is, faster and moving through several dunun rhythms in a short space of time within the same piece). not very much is known about sierra leone and liberia because they don't have internationally famous ballets and due to war and other factors , relatively few people are interested in these countries besides aid workers and people invested in their natural resources. arafan toure and fode youla learned the sierra leone material and brought some of it to the guinean repertoire. the true traditional djembe tradition in senegal is limited to the east of the country, as well as goree island, but these days in the dakar (the capital) djembe is nearly always played together with sabar drums, so you have a new djembe tradition with all manner of rhythms of various ethnic groups played on djembe, sabar and bougarabou. the wollof (sabar) and mandinka (seuruba) influences are also present in the gambian style. also, the versions of guinean rhythms you see in gambia and dakar (senegal) are often markedly different from how they are played in guinea. a fair few guineans have move d to gambia, including some djembe players, and this has resulted in a change in the gambian style.

these are all general remarks and i'm sure others will have a lot to add.
By Daniel Preissler
#21708
we have to be careful not to mix up too many things here.
It is not correct to establish national style chronologics. there are no "national djembe schools" in westafrica.
I think there are at least the following regions (regional styles) that should be mentioned (I'm not claiming to be complete!):

- Lower Guinea 1 : Baga
- Lower Guinea 2 : Susu
- Upper Guinea 1 : Mankinka Faranah
- Upper Guinea 2 : Mankinka Kouroussa and Kankan (with Dundunba)
- Upper Guinea 3 = Southwest Mali : Mankinka Siguriri and Wassolon (Guinean and Mali)
- Bamako from the 1950s or 60s on: "newer" style, influenced by Wassolon and Kassonka rhythms and many more.
- (Guinean) ballet style: all the ballet styles of Westafrica and around the world are part of this group with little national or regional differences. The Bobo and Balahone influences in Burkina (in fact as there is no djembe tradition in Burkina, all the djembe players there have played other instruments before) are such litttle differences. The differences between Siguiri and Kouroussa are more important than between Conakry, Bobo, Bamako, Abidjan and even Dakar, if we're talking about ballet style. So Burkina djembe style is just a part of one special guinean style, not a natinal style on his own, but part of what I call panafrican modern djembe music.
- the even newer Bamako djembe style (with more drums) since the 1990s or so.
- the globalized djembe+bala+dundun+x style used all over the world for concerts.
- we could even distinguish the Conakry maninka style for more or less traditional "fêtes" from the Upper guinean style (or we could put it together with the Kouroussa/Kankan style)
- Conakry dundunba fêtes are a new style on their own: it's between the Kouroussa/Kankan style or it's conakry derivate and the ballet style (closer to the last one, but with the "fête" character - though not everyone could dance here, contrarily to upper guinean fêtes or Conakry maninka marriages)
- there's conakry Sabar played with djembes
- then there are plenty of different influences on djembe music in Ivory Coast. I'm sure that some others no much better about that.
- probably we could built more malian style groups than I did, too.
- there's Senegambia (no need to seperate in countries, I think) - I'm talking about traditional music here, the Ballets in Dakar and Casamance are again part of the globalized Conakry-Paris ballet style
- then there are many mictures between the mentioned styles (eg in Bamako) and the use of the instrument dundunba is spreading around upper Guinea and Westafrica

I hope this helps. Of course all depends on how exact you want to be, you'll have to finish one day! The most important thing is to avoid the "guinean style, malian style, burkina style" categorization.

Greetings, Daniel
By bubudi
#21709
hi hawaouti, thanks for bringing up these questions. i'll attempt to answer some of them.
HawaOuti wrote:In the list of traditional rhythms there are some that are not originally played with djembe:
Lengjen - if it refers to mandinka rhytm in Gambia and Casamance, then it is played with seuruba drums
Warba - mossi rhythm from Burkina? No djembes at least 20 years ago.
Bao - is it played with djembes?
Djole - originally with siko drums
Kebendo - is it a djembe rhythm? I know it is a balafone rhythm but often played with yole
Liberte - djembe, yes, but not traditional (from 1968 or something like that..?)

Just some questions, correct me if I'm wrong! Also it would be nice to know about the baga rhythms, they can't be all originally djembe rhythm, or can they?
yes, not all rhythms currently played were traditionally played on djembe ensemble. the susu live close to the baga, landuma, nalu, and down south to the mandinye and temne. it's not surprising to find an exchange happening and seeing the djembe being adopted by these ethnic groups, particularly after its popularisation as an instrument with the ballet. also, the ballets sought out rhythms from the various ethnic groups of guinea, so a transcription of non-djembe music to djembe happened which has become classic in conakry, and made its way into the urban tradition.

djole and gumbe is nowadays often played on djembe in sierra leone, where these rhythms originated (see videos in the jole thread), as well as the drums they were originally played on. there is also caribbean influence in these 2 genres, and of course caribbean drum music is another manifestation of traditional african music blended together with so called 'new world' influences... a case of african music coming 'full circle' through the diaspora and back.

speaking of diaspora, there is a big djembe scene in the caribbean, as well as reunion island. they are playing their own rhythms on the djembe. the rhythms from reunion are quite interesting!

lengjen - mandinka people, a branch of the people of mali from whom the djembe originated. closely related to malinke people, yet the mandinka culture is centred in cassamance, a very small area where several ethnic groups live in close proximity, which gave birth to their unique type of music.

warba - since the mossi are the dominant ethnic group of burkina faso, this would almost be the national rhythm. not surprising to find it played on the most popular drum in burkina. similarly, all kinds of ghanaian rhythms being played on djembe, as well as senegalese rhythms (wollof and other ethnic groups).
I think the fast and furious Guinea or Burkina style is quite recent, even in the 20 years time I have been travelling there the style has changed a lot.
a very valid point, it's constantly changing.

i hope this helps. to me, it opens up many more questions :lol:
By bubudi
#21710
hi daniel, good to see you join this discussion, and you present some very good points!
Afoba wrote:we have to be careful not to mix up too many things here.
It is not correct to establish national style chronologics. there are no "national djembe schools" in westafrica.
i will have to respond to this later, as it really requires a lot more discussion. two things immediately come to mind though. firstly, i think people tend to think of 'guinean style' as what one hears in conakry, 'mali style' as what one hears in bamako, and 'burkina style' as what one hears in bobo dioulasso. of course, this is representative only of a modernised mix of the music away from its original context. however, it's a new tradition in itself. the second thing that comes to mind is that while the colonial country divide is not an african one, i think it's a somewhat romanticised notion to say it has not had any effect on the music or culture. take the difference between the guinean and malian wasulunke dialects for starters. more later...

regarding your classifications of djembe music styles, you are right, one could keep refining the regional differences on a smaller scale. when you started listing what you thought were the main styles, i started thinking of styles that didn't really fit into those categories. other lower guinean styles, for instance, and some of the forest styles. by the way, would a planibala (5 headed drum) qualify as a sort of djembe, or a very close relative? what about the smaller djembes of that region (around 9-10 inch head diameter)?

re: djembe in burkina, a small part of burkina lies in the territory of the old mali empire, there are jula people there who i presume were playing djembe music before it got taken over by the more dominant bobo musicians.

looking forward to continuing this discussion with you when time permits...
By Paul
#21711
Some good points here.. Most of my experience is in Bob Dioulasso... How long is the djembe there? If you go to some of the old style cabaret, the djembe really takes a back seat and is often providing a bass accompaniment (especially if no dunun) and alot of the guys i saw were leading the singing also.. alot of the older guys talk about farafina as bringing a more fiery style of djembe to the balafon ensemble..

Ishiaka Deni told me it was a personal preference for him to play a more guinea style of djembe/dunun arranged over the balafon/baradunun songs.. Its just more fun for a djembefola.. Its also a bit of a cultural crossroads over there..

Bands like ishiakas Landumba really hit me as a mixing pot.. Often dunun/sanbn, dunun/kenkeni, baradunun, dioula balafon x2, maninka balafon, tama and perhaps 3 djembe.. The fast heavy percussion breaks layered over all that balafon is something else.. Saw some bands doing stuff straight off a MK album..
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By Dugafola
#21725
Afoba wrote:we have to be careful not to mix up too many things here.
It is not correct to establish national style chronologics. there are no "national djembe schools" in westafrica.
not national style, but each style...because they have all changed over time.
#21731
because they have all changed over time.
I thought I pointed that out.
"each style" - no! If we start like that I will end up describing a north-south line somewhere between Sangbarala and Kumana/Babila where several things change and someone else will be surely be found to make differences between older and newer parts of Bamako or Bouaké. But James wants to write an article, not a doctoral dissertation after 5-10 years of research. My point was that in a categorization that can be mentioned there, all the ballet styles (and Burkina is mostly ballet style - and something between ballet and westafrican pop music - of course the Burkina way) are more or less one. The have had two main developping points, Paris and Conakry (I have already mentioned the particular local influences from other than djembe music in my last post). Talking about "the Burkina style" and "the guinean style" makes no sense, because there are many different styles in Guinea, that have developped over many many years (and that James and Bubudi forgot in their postings). And the "Burkina style" is just a derivation of one special and quite new djembe performance style from Guinea. It's a bit like comparing english dialects in Great Britain and Germany, you know, what I mean?

Greetings, Daniel
By HawaOuti
#21737
Hi guys,

I think Afoba had good points about different styles.
And about James writing an article and not doctoral thesis...

However, if you write a list of traditional mande djembe rhythms -
lenjen or warba and some others are not djembe rhythms, even foule here is probably fula rhythm (named by others) originally played with fula djembes that are a bit different with malinke djembes and not part of mande group at least linguistically speaking.... and some rhythms that are newer creations.
Traditional + mande + djembe does limit the selection.
It is nice to include all these rhythms for reference, but then you would have to include explications of the origins.
How about different variations of the rhythms? For ex. djaa from two different villages is still djaa, just different version. Otherwise you'll be adding names of all the villages to your list.

Just trying to add to your work list, James! ;)
Seriously, it is good that you are writing this article.

And some personal notes:

Many nice rhythms that people start to play outside the villages are still nice, but they loose some very "delicious" details as they are out of context and usually played with different instruments and/or with more speed.

My experience in Burkina is from 20 years ago, all the groups were doing strictly their own music with special instruments, no djembes exept Bobo, where the djembes were huge and not so high tuned, mostly played with the balafons.
I thought that maybe the popularity of djembe in Senegal at the time was also (not counting Guinean influence) due to the fact that everybody could play it, even if you were not from a gewel family as sabar players.

I have studied mostly in Guinea and it is sometimes funny to see the changes in the dances over the years. For examble: I look at the choreography of some ballet of street party and notice the influences of dances from the neighbouring countries, and the newest steps of the year. Then I see some steps that are from this or that ballet from twenty years ago, but with a different rhythm. Then I see some traditional steps included or modified, and all this is a short dance sequence! If even I can see this, what could the older dancers tell! It is really a pity that so much information is lost, I think in dance even more than rhythms.

Outi
By bubudi
#21739
this is a complicated subject and i'm not sure we'll agree on everything, but it is very interesting to explore this topic from various angles. that way, we're bound to explore the way this music evolved in different regions. actually, the evolution of this music into different styles is probably more relevant.

when discussing styles, most of us would tend to talk about the music that we find on recordings and hear in the big cities. therefore a lot of us wouldn't really be talking so much about the various village styles, even though these urban styles did evolve from village music.

with the ballet style, there are of course a lot of differences between malian and guinean ballet (or senegalese, etc) music. they didn't only evolve in conakry...

as far as the village traditions are concerned, i agree the stylistic divisions can get quite small. i find it very interesting that people want to make several divisions among maninka djembe music, yet will group susu, baga, landuma, nalu, mandinye and temne all together as 'coastal style'. examples of village coastal music are rare, so mostly we are hearing coastal music being played ballet style, which of course gets rid of many of the distinguishing characteristics.

i also thought about north and south maninka as two large groups, but then the wassolon style is quite unique again. if we look at how mamady keita plays and teaches wassolon music, and then look at how someone like sega sidibe, aruna sidibe or sidiki camara (all from malian wassolon) play it, you will hear some stylistic differences.

so i think maybe for this article, grouping styles by ethnic group might work best. although probably mentioning all ethnic groups is probably a bit over ambitious. but at least mentioning the ethnic groups that currently have a strong djembe tradition. at the very least, maninka, susu, bamana, and then later on add more ethnic groups. that should make things easier.