(Introduction Aux Musiques Africaines)

1.           Sara Kaba, xylophone, (Chad). A tribute to musicians played solo on the kindi, xylophone with thirteen strips that uses a calabash (large gourd) as a resonator. With the exception of those that represent children’s voices, each calabash has a mirliton membrane that modifies the timbre (adds a buzzing sound).

2.           Bania Oné Aé Zoa, mbira of Manza, (Central African Republic). This piece is played on a ten-strip metal mbira. It is a virtuoso instrument that is remarkable in its ability to mimic certain xylophone music, as demonstrated here. This song is performed by a small group of men and women.

3.           Peuls Wodabé choir, (Niger). The climax of the Guéréwol festival of the nomadic Peuls is the beauty competition. Its contestants are young men who are decked out in full make-up. They perform a dance that highlights the principle elements of their beauty: a bright shining smile and the whiteness of their teeth. They sing in a relay style so that the song continues uninterrupted, producing an almost hypnotic effect.

4.           Variable Tension Drum (talking drum) of the Baribas, (Benin). The two skins of this drum are pulled tight by a network of leather cords over an hourglass-shaped body. The instrument is held under the musician’s arm, who by increasing or decreasing the pressure of his arm on the strings, varies the tension of the skins. This alters the drums pitch while he plays. The famous tama drums from Senegal/Gambia fall into this same category.  (Two parts).

5.           Apala or Akpala talking drum ensemble, Yoruba Tribe, (Benin). Festival music played by professional musicians, commonly called griots. The music celebrates those present and inspires them to dance. These troupes may comprise as many as six drums or as few as two. The smallest drum plays a pulsing rhythm that the “mother drum” plays over.

6.           Himmi—chant sung by Teda girls, (Tidesti, Chad). This responsorial chant between a soloist and girls choir is part of a large repertoire of divertimento himmi danced to and sung by young girls. The girls provide their own rhythmic accompaniment by clapping and producing a type of groan said to imitate the cooing of pigeons. This groan is called the orokouli.. The Peuls Bororo employ a similar technique in certain songs also sung by young girls.  Note the ululation vocal technique in the middle of the song (three times).

7.           Lullaby of the Banda-Dakpa, (Central African Republic). Sung first of all with a clear voice without any particular technique, the singer then reprises the song in a cooing/buzzing manner with the goal of soothing the infant.

8.           Kibunda, Rujindiri, zither, inanga , (Rwanda). The zither, inanga, shaped like a shield, has a horn divided in six or eight segments, which is held in place by notches in the support board. The instrument accompanies the singer/player. The basic repertoire of this courtly instrument was to celebrate kings and chronicle their exploits. Today’s themes are more ordinary. Kibunda was composed between 1730 and 1760. It is played and sung by Rujindiri, a zither master who played in the royal court before the formation of the Republic in 1962.

9.           Old bowed monochord of the Touraregs. (Libya). This instrument is called the imzad  by the northern Touares (Algeria, Libya) and the amzad  by those in the Sahalien region,(Niger, Mali…) In this instance it is played by women, though normally it is played exclusively by men. In this recording, the rhythmic accompaniment is provided by another woman playing a tabl, a large wooden timpani drum with a skin pulled tight for a head. The first piece, anhil, continues into the second, hali hali without interruption.

10.        Harp in the shape of an arc and Marba chant, (Chad). The singer recounts exploits with beautiful women and the hard times faced in the present day while accompanying himself on a 5-string harp tuned to a pentatonic scale. The harp is called an adigna. The singing takes the form of vocal exercises when the singer is looking for inspiration or wishes to highlight certain parts of the song that demand reflection on the part of the listener.

11.        Song for the dance of Malinke hunters, (Guinea). The musician who is part of the hunting brotherhood (which exists in each village) sings while accompanying himself on a six-string harp-lute called the dozokonou or bourounouba.. In this case, a seven-string version called the kogbelenou  is being played. Two other hunters accompany the singers; one playing a small metal whistle, the other scraping a metal tube called the karinya. A choir of women responds. The other hunters hold their weapons and dance in a circle. One at a time, they will pull away and enter the center of the circle as the singer praises his exploits.

12.        Kenga flute and percussion Ensemble, (Chad).  This is an ensemble of five 3-hole flutes that are covered by an animal skin. The percussion includes two double skin drums and a kordogo made from a calabash. It is always the kodogo that signals the beginning of each piece. These orchestras play pieces normally intended for funerals, labor music etc. that are transformed into festival music. This piece is dedicated to an ancestral warrior named Déyé.

13.        Polyphonic chant of the Babayak Pygmies, (Gabon).  A duo of female yodelers. The second voice attempts to imitate the first, which offers a formula to which a response is given according to canon. The two voices look to join each other by way of opposition. This system becomes more evident when multiple voices are at play.

14.        Aka Pygmie yodels,  (Central African Republic). This piece, Nduda, is played for the iombé dance.  The song is underscored by the percussion: two drums in unison and two pairs of metal strips that are hit together.  The vocals are led by a man who yodels and is responded to by a choir of women.  Note the 2 against 3 implied by the idiophone and the drums.

15.        Spinning song of young Dorzé women,(Ethiopia).  Polyphonic choir of young women from southern Ethiopia that sings during the winter evenings when everyone is gathered to spin yarn. They also perform in market squares during the Maskal festival held in September).  Note the familiar call-and-response style of singing.

16.        Peuls Bororo Clarinet Duet, (Chad). These small rosewood clarinets, called ndélyadi are used by shepherds. They are approximately 20cm in length, 1cm in diameter, and have three holes. The instrument is played by a small group of two or four boys who lead the animals. They will also play at night in camp, which is what can be heard in this piece.

17.        Diphonic chant and musical bow of the Xhosa, (South Africa). Music for amusement/diversion:

a.      The musical bow, umrhubhe, is normally played by women and girls by rubbing the string with a piece of wood. This differs from the normal way of playing this type of instrument in that it is usually plucked or stroked. Here, the player places one end of the bow in front of her mouth and chooses harmonics by modifying the position of the lips and tongue. She produces two fundamentals by applying pressure (or not), thereby changing the length of the vibrating string.

b.      The diphonic voice combines a bass drone, produced by one voice in the lower register, with a melodic upper register produced by other voice.  They proceed to both sing in the lower voice.

18.        Lyre, bagana, (Ethiopia). A large ten-string lyre that some believe to be the instrument referred to in the Bible as “the harp of David”. It is tuned to a pentatonic scale. It is used as an accompaniment to repertoires of nobles, scholars and priests.  It figures prominently in traditional religious songs, as in this case, for the fast of Lent.

19.        Kalefa ba, M’Bady and Diaryatou Kouyaté, kora and song of Ngabou, (Guinea). The kora with its 21 strings and large calabash that acts as a resonator produces a sparkling sound that has brought it popularity far beyond its West African origins. Traditionally, it was played by the djeli, or griots. Here, we hear the famous Koyaté family: M’Bady plays the kora and his wife, Diaryatou exhibits the melodic voice of a born griot that could easily fill a large outdoor auditorium. Kaléfa  is the first song that M’Bady was ever taught.

20.        Sultan’s orchestra. Kanem, (Chad). All the large sultanates of the Sahel-Sudanese region have orchestras that are comprised of long horns, timpani drums  in pairs and oboes. There are also various combinations of drums that make each orchestra unique. The powerful kingdom of the Kanem-Bornou dominated the borders of Lake had for many centuries. Due to the whims of border issues between colonial powers, the Bornou now find themselves in Nigerian territory and the Kanem in Chad. The sultan of Kanem resides in Mao and his musicians sing his praises and keep alive their traditions and music:

-             The sultan is in the palace

-             The sultan is leaving on his horse

-             The sultan stops before his people

-             Horse dancing by dignitaries for the sultan

In the first three pieces, the large, regal drum, galta is heard. In the fourth it is replaced by the drum called ganga.

21.        Ongo horns of the Banda (Central African Republic). These orchestras of wooden horns are used for different rituals, and may be comprised of as many as twenty instruments, (in this case, eighteen) that only play one note. Here we note the successive entry of high and low pitches as in hocket form.

22.        Demsoni Kelen, Mamady Keita, Mandinka percussion, (Guinea). The dunumba of Hamanah is a very popular dance in the region of Upper Guinea. It is also the name of the largest in a group of three dunums  which are made of a cylinder with skins at both ends. In this piece, these drums are accompanied by two djembés. This dance is, also called, “The Dance of Strong Men” is made up of over twenty rhythms. In this piece, the drummers add sexual gestures to their playing to try to impress women in the audience.

23.        Marie-Louise, Ngoma ensemble, (Zaire).  Performed by Wendo Sor, (aka Mondo Kolosoyi).  Wendo Sor and his piece “Zairian rumba” with its strong Cuban influence, prove to be one of the precursors of métis music that became very popular in the 1940s and 1950s.  At a very young age he turned his interest to the guitar, a move for which he was much berated by his mother for choosing a “white” instrument. The instrumentation of this early version of Marie-Louise is close to traditional chants accompanied by a harp or mbira.  Later, the group would incorporate other instruments, (trumpets, clarinets, percussion) that would bring their music even closer to the “Western” sound. Marie-Louise, sung in the local language (Lingala) contributed to rumors that this new type of music could bring life back to the dead and that Wendo himself was a sorcerer.

24.        Bemin sebeb littlish, Mahmoud Ahmed, (Ethiopia). Mahmoud Ahmed has been a star in Ethiopia and abroad for more than twenty years. However, Ethiopia and its music remain less known internationally than the music of other parts of Africa.  Though the instrumentation is different, the orchestra provides the base on which the voice is supported.  This is popular music created for its own listeners, not for the “world music” market.

25.        Mandjou, Salif Keita, (Mali, 1978). Though he is of noble origins, Salif sings in the style of the griots, but also music with a Cuban influence. Mandjou, in the words of Helen Lee, “is the most soulful piece he has ever recorded…”. While no one is named explicitly, it is believed that Mandjou was composed for Sékou Touré when he was the president of Guinea.