Daniel Giordani: jembe fó. Perkussionsmusik der Maninka Guineas zwischen Kontinuität und Wandel (= percussion music of the Maninka of Guinea in between continuity and change) . Masters thesis of the University of Viena 2003.
http://trommel-schule.eu/PDF/Diplomarbe ... emusik.pdf
Back on topic. This is some of the rare academic stuff on Guinean djembe drumming, so it is a valuable source. After the conventional glimpse into his methodology, the history and society, and of course the percussive instruments of the Malinke, Giordani mainly digs into the festivities in the rural area of Guinee -- meaning Mansa Camios Baro.
In Baro, we find mainly dunun festivities, as are: Baradossa, Sunkarosali (end of Ramadan), Donkinsali (Tabaski), Gbalanlon, Silamalon, Dalamon. As special feasts he names Denabon/Denkunli (baptism), Solisi (circumcision), Fedu (wedding), Sedetulon and Mamaya. Feasts for support in the fields like Kassa and harvest homes like Kamberensali are not celebrated any more, as he states - just like Gbalanlon and Silamalon.
Undoubtedly, I learned something from reading this. In most vivid details he describes the baradosa
. Bara (village square) dosa (=to scratch) is a feast of 3 days in Baro, where the generation of the baratii
descends into the mogoba
, the old and respected guys. In total, he argues, there are six generations (in males):
kondonden (0-7 years old)
kondenba (7-14 years old, kids before circumcision)
baramamaren (14-21 years old, tenager after circumcision)
baradómó (21-28 years old, young men)
baratii (28-35 years old, rulers of the youth and intermediaries between the old men and the youth)
mógóba (35-42 and, I guess, beyond. mógóba, a big person, meaning experienced and respected)
, which is called kon
in Baro, is the most respected dundunba and is typically started with. Whenever one of the mógóbalu dances, drummers will return to kon
in order to him show respect. On the third day, the baradomolu enter the bara and the baratiilu get symbolically overwhelmed by them to give the place to the next genereation. The baratiilu finally dance the moribayassa and dissappear. In the focus of the day there is a girl called sankaranba
, something like a princess for the next baratiilu. She is chosen in a competitive race to catch a chicken. Since it is a huge honor and responsibility in terms of resources to feed the whole village, not many girls compete.
is the feast of Ramadan
. Interestingly, the name comes from the name for the month of September in the solar calendar and still functions as the name for Ramadan even though that is celebrated by the moon calendar. In Baro, the sunkarosali
is one of the few occasions where the mask of konden
dances. The mask belongs to the kondenba
, who have the responsibility to take care of the mask and to clothe the bearer of the mask. Of course, in Baro this feast is celebrated as a dundun feast. On this occasion, two smaler masks do also appear: the gbalanen
and the touranengbananen
, is basically ceelbrated the same way as the sunkarosali
in Baro. For Giordani didn't take part in that feast, there is very little information on it other than that it takes part at the 10th day of the month donkin
and that families acquire sheep for the feast sometimes weeks ahead.
feast is about the construction of gbalan, pedestal-like divan-beds at the bara
, where the old guys of the village can sit on during the feasts and meetings. All inhabitants of the village work together for their construction and in the end they celebrate, guess what, a big dundunba feast. Giordani has never seen any of those constructions, so he thinks that kind of feasts are not any longer celebrated. But now at least I know where the rhythm Gbalanla
comes from, that Famoudou Konaté teaches.
, the cleaning of the paths from village to village, is a yearly community work to get rid of the high gras and scrub. the young men of the villages take yearly turns in cleaning, and in the end they will be welcomed with a dundunba dance and a complimentary dinner. But, as mentioned above, it is probably hardly celebrated any more.
feast (dala = pond; món = fishing), is another occasion for collective work, this time the collective fishing of the ponds to "harvest" the fish before the ponds dry out. It is supposed to be the biggest feast in Baro with lots of visitors and, guess what, lots of dundunba. According to Fadouba Oulare the dalamón
is also practised to appease the „jina“ (fr. diable
) of the pond so that no bad luck will happen to the village the coming year.
As special feasts Giordani lists the denabon
(lit. shaving of the head
as Giordani states, but it seems to be more the little head of the kid
), the baptism. The importance of the baptism for the djembe musicians has declined, since denabon/denkunli is more and more celebrated within the intimate circle of family.
, the circumcision or excision, used to be one of the most important feasts in Upper Guinea, for it means the first step of children into an adult life as real members of society with an own identity based on gender. There are several names for this occasion: soli, solisi, ka den nina ji, ka i bolo ko (for washing [= ko] the hand(s) [= bolo]), and ka i bila kodo. Mostly, the solisi is celebrated in Upper Guiena during the dry season (November-March), in smaller villages after a couple of years, in bigger villages it is rather a yearly event.
The age of the initiated is droping in Upper Guinea as it is in the big cities. While it used to be done with 13-14, today the age ranges from 4-8. The feast starts a week ahead of the circumcision/excision with the shaving of the head. Only a little spot in the back is left that will be shaved (=kungbana) during the big solisi the night before.
The whole night there is drumming and dancing. Next to the rhythm soli they play kourouma and soliwoulen in Baro.
Giordani explicitly states that he is against the excision of girls and that it is illegal in Guinea. Accordingly, informants where reluctant to talk about the solisi for girls.
, the marriage, is another special and important occasion for feasts and today the most frequent occasion for the musicians to play their drums. It is also one of the most complex events in terms of formalities, because a marriage does determine the life of the couple and to a large extent of the families involved.
One of the feasts celebrated in the fudu is the denbadon in honor of the brides mother, where the mother is usually substituted by a good friend of hers.
The sumu is another of those feasts, but Giordani tells that it was celebrated not with djembe players, but with pop music played from the stereo.
The jalaban, on the other hand, is a typical djembe feast. The main rhythm is, of course, the dja (or ja
, in Giordanis spelling). The female friends of the bride clap to the rhythm and take turns in dancing in the middle of the circle, spin around, clap one time and return ot their places within the circle.
are celebrated in cities only. In Kankan, for instance, many girls and women are organized in groups (=sédé) for the organization of important and costly celebrations (=tulon) of their members. But they also celebrate some smaller feast just for themselves and spontaneously call for some drummers and dance together. Mamaya is a much bigger event and is planed meticulously by a number of sédé working together for this. Often, the girls and women have themselves made cloth in unison just for the occasion. The dance was origninally accompanied by balas only, but today it became a rythm for djembe and dunduns, too.
Finally, the special occasion for djembe feasts left is kassa
. In old times (folo, folo), the work on the fields of a village used to be done as teamwork by the young men, the kambereni, of the village and was supported by djembe music. At the end of the harvest the village used to celebrate a feast in honor of the young mens work, the kamberesali. Nowadays, the communal work is rare.
Giordani also describes the development of djembe music in Guineas capital Conakry, but since it doesn't interest me that much, I will not take the pain to summarize all that. Though I have to admit that it was nice to read for the first time some parallel developments to those decribed by Polak for Bamako. There has been established an urban culture in its own right where the ethnic identity of people is becoming less important than the identity as inhabitants of the city. That culture is dominated by dundunba and sabbar feasts, musically it is dominated by the ballets.
Some additional value comes from Giordanis notations of rhythms and patterns beginning with p. 109 and 150. You can find summaries for typical patterns of rhythms, accompaniments, and chauffs and transcriptions of the rhythms from his lessons in Conakry.
Giordanis thesis is one of the rare published sources on djembe music in Upper Guinea and one of the early stuff. Of course, as a masters thesis it cannot go as deeply into the matter as we might desire. Having mostly Baro as an example for Upper Guinea, I am also a bit sceptical about some general statements of his. Baro seems to have a special status, even more so than Sangbarala. Mansa Camio made a living of the cultural tourism revolving around his village and lots of inhabitants, mostly dancers and drummers, of Baro are depending on that. In this time of hardship from ebola inflicted Guinea you can see how desperate this is missing in the fact that people who didn't want to organize workshops and concerts for Mansa any more are again participating and calling for donation. In Sangbarala, there is also tourism from the students of the Konaté family, but it is not changing the village life and culture as much, I would say. Anyway, both villages might not be the best examples for the culture and feasts typically celebrates in Upper Guinea nowadays.