Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Seleshe Damessae and the devil's krar

Myths point to the Nile River area as the origin of the lyre.
Mercury is supposed to have devised the lyre when one day he found a dried -out tortoise
on the banks of the Nile.On the other hand ,historical documents attest that lyres
played a great role in Sumerian ceremonies before 2700 BC.
Egyptian paintings of 2000BC show Semitic nomads with lyres.

Kebede, Ashenafi, "The Bowl-Lyre of Northeast Africa. Krar: The Devil's Instrument"

Azmaris   the Ethiopian singer-musicians,like the European bards,or the West African djelis(griots).
may be male or female, are skilled at singing extemporized verses,
accompanying themselves on either the masenqo(one-stringed fiddle)or the krar.
The azmaris excel in the art of improvisation.A few centuries ago the azmaris performed religious functions at the courts of sovereigns.
They celebrated liturgies and officiated at certain ceremonies. Their repertoire gradually
became more secular. They began as praise-singers, then they sang love poetry and eventually began to invent
humorous or satirical verse in which they poked fun at their own protectors.
Love songs are still by far the most popular part of their repertoire.

The krar is a five-or six-stringed bowl-shaped lyre .
The instrument is tuned to a pentatonic scale. A modern krar may be amplified,
ans its five or six strings determine the available pitches. The instrument's tone depends on the musician's
playing technique: bowing, strumming or plucking. If plucked, krar will produce a soft tone.
Strumming, on the other hand, will yield a harmonious pulsation.
According to legends passed by word of mouth (yaf taric) from generation to generation,
the Krar is known as " the devil's instrument" (yeseyTan mesaria).

According to a few azmaris who still remember and tell the story,
the make of the begena, its measurements and construction with the techniques of playing it,
was miraculously re­vealed to Dawit mainly to serve in the musical praise of God,
in the adoration of His name as well as in the encouragement it rendered in poetical (Kinai)
religious meditations and prayers. The Krar, on the contrary, was an inferior instrument,
both in sound and resemblance to that of the begena, which man made inspired by seytan.
Thus, the Azmaries say, the Krar's function in music also remained inferior-only
for the adoration of feminine beauty, arousal of the sexual impulse, or praise of carnal love.

a future  hope from the past 
in a new superior  rip


Thursday, February 21, 2013

gumboot guitar

the real  isicathulo  story ( in brief )

At the height of the migrant labour system and the oppressive apartheid pass laws, within the South African gold mines, laborers were forced to create their own forms of entertainment and communication. The strict laws at the time forbid the miners from talking to one another which led to them developing their own ‘Morse code’ inspired communication system of slapping their gumboots (Wellington boots), stomping their feet and rattling their chains, which restrained them to their work stations. From this came an entertainment, as the miners developed their percussive sounds and movements into a unique dance form and used it to entertain each other during their free time.
The racial separation of apartheid government meant that miners were separated from their families for long periods of time. The men would be taken chained into the mines and shackled at their cramped work stations in almost total darkness. They were forbidden to move around and punishment was enforced with physical abuse. Conditions were very poor; floors were often flooded with poor or non-existent drainage, which meant that they often suffered from skin ulcers, foot problems and consequently lost work time. The white bosses, rather than spend the money needed to properly drain the shafts, issued the workers with gumboots. Thus, the miner’s uniform was born; heavy black gumboots, jeans or overalls, bare chests (as temperatures would reach up to 40°C) and bandannas to absorb the eye-stinging sweat. To the miners, gumboot dancing was not only a method to communicate and entertain, but a method to survive.
It didn’t take long for the miners to attach lyrics to their newly found dance. The songs that were sung to go with the snappy movements dealt with working-class life − drinking, love, family and low wages. They would even sing about the cruel bosses and the despicable control they had over them. Quite amusingly the bosses were none the wiser as the workers sang in their own native languages. Even more amusing is that the mine bosses came to enjoy the deeply rhythmic resonances that mocked them and began to stage performances featuring the best of the gumboot dance troupes from the local mines. The dancers were used to entertain visitors and spread good PR by representing the company. From there it spread tribally and became popular throughout South Africa. Eventually it became a popular performance worldwide. By the end of apartheid it had evolved beyond communication into the fully fledged expressive art of the gumboot dance we know today.

 Music previously played on Zulu musical bows was transferred in the new urban environment to the guitar and often concertina and violin too. the music was called maskanda. 

Musicians played for their own enjoyment, but they also joined miners’ gumboot dance teams to accompany this exhilarating genre. Often lacking in formal performance areas, most of this music-making traditionally takes place on the streets of single-sex hostel compounds. These recordings from 1988 and 1996 feature musicians and gumboot players who lived in one such hostel outside Durban.

“This is the real deal, street music played by people who work hard all day and play at night or on the weekend. The real roots of South Africa umbaquanga music are right here. There’s a variety of sound on Gumboot Guitar as far as instruments are concerned: on gumboot-dominated tunes, the guitar plays rhythmic chords with a very percussive attack. A pounding beat is also belted out by an accordion or concertina on most tunes…powerful.”

the good recordings are by Janet Topp Fargion & Albert Nene...

gumboot guitar

Monday, February 18, 2013


There is a train that comes from Namibia and Malawi 
there is a train that comes from Zambia and Zimbabwe, 
There is a train that comes from Angola and Mozambique, 
From Lesotho, from Botswana, from Zwaziland, 
From all the hinterland of Southern and Central Africa. 
This train carries young and old, African men 
Who are conscripted to come and work on contract 
In the golden mineral mines of Johannesburg 
And its surrounding metropolis, sixteen hours or more a day 
For almost no pay. 
Deep, deep, deep down in the belly of the earth 
When they are digging and drilling that shiny mighty evasive stone, 
Or when they dish that mish mesh mush food 
into their iron plates with the iron shank. 
Or when they sit in their stinking, funky, filthy, 
Flea-ridden barracks and hostels. 
They think about the loved ones they may never see again 
Because they might have already been forcibly removed 
From where they last left them 
Or wantonly murdered in the dead of night 
By roving, marauding gangs of no particular origin, 
We are told. they think about their lands, their herds 
That were taken away from them 
With a gun, bomb, teargas and the cannon. 
And when they hear that Choo-Choo train 
They always curse, curse the coal train, 
The coal train that brought them to Johannesburg.

Hugh Masekela

Friday, February 15, 2013


the anthemic takamba 
in two versions :

unknown musicians from Gao -Djaba 

Super Onze de Gao -Djaba 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Maâlem Benaïssa

its  one step  from  hoddu to gimbri 

Born in 1965 in Algiers, Benaissa Bahaz is considered one of the rare and brilliant maâlem of Algerian Gnawa. Having bathed at an early age in the arts, his father quickly introduced him to gumbri, traditional musical instrument of the Gnawa people. The Gnawa are the descendents of former slaves from populations of black African origin. Besides this introduction, his father has also instilled discipline in work and respect for ancestors.

However, Benaissa will not be long to break free from tradition and use the gumbri to discover new sounds, including working with other artists. If he draws his inspiration from spiritual Alla Bechar, he discovers the world of rock Algerian in company with the group T34. Benaissa then moves through the city of Kenadsa, one of the greatest cultural crossroads of Algeria and the Mecca of Gnawa.

Years pass, and here the artist joins the group Diwan Dzair. Naturally, he became the leader because of his musical experience and his art in handling gumbri.

While harmonizing the various influences, the group focuses more specifically to the trends jazz and blues. But it is by his gumbri and through his serious and fed sounds Benaissa catches the attention of his audience. The band performed in many concerts and festivals all across Europe, Africa, Middle East and even in Cuba.

Time passes, and Benaissa becomes a great maâlem and clean up the music Diwan Dzair to make an album of pure Diwan, entitled "Daoui. The return to roots and traditions is endorsed. In 2005, Benaissa sign the soundtrack to the documentary film "Tagnawitatitude. For a while he stands on its own.He is thus one of the headliners of the first international festival of Gnawa music.

Benaissa Behaz died Friday, November 7, 2008 at the age of 43 years.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Barou Sall Ndiarou

 a tale and 40 minutes of solo hoddu  with master Barou Sall Ndiarou
 living   fulbe  traditions

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Samba Touré-Fondo

Samba Touré grew up in Dabi, a small village in northern Mali,
his father passed away just before his birth, leaving his mother to raise him alongside his brother,
Ibrahima ‘Bouri’ Séré. Although they could not afford formal education,
the brothers were surrounded by music and his mother was one of the first women
to sing with the young Ali Farka Touré at the Biennale Festival in Mali.
inspired by the Congolese guitar groups,began singing and playing guitar in a band called Farafina Lolo
(Africa Star), with his brother Bouri on the drums and Baba Simagah on the bass guitar,in the mid-1990s, Samba briefly joined another group, Super Lolo.
It was Ali Farka who encouraged Samba to look to his roots and establish
his own identity rather than following passing music fads and Samba Touré formed Fondo.
Fondo includes Zoumana Tereta, a master of the sokou,
Oumar Barou Diallo on bass guitar, Hamma Sankaré on calabash and Bouri on the drums.
The youngest member of the band, Djimé Sissoko, is the little brother of Baba Sissoko,
and can be heard on the ngoni and tamani .
Together, they have played at numerous African festivals, with the bassist Baba Simagah
and the conga player Oumar Touré (who was a longtime player with Ali Farka Touré) joining the line-up.
Fondo was produced by Ali Farka. in 2004.

ina new rip

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ensemble Tartit ,Touaregs Kel Antessar~Amazagh

Music, song and poetry occupy an extremely large and fundamental place in Tuareg society.
In all the chaos that this century and its struggles have caused, they have remained a constant
mark of Tuareg identity. The Tuareg confederations have as a whole certain musical practices
in common, as well as the rules that guide them and the themes of the poems that are sung. 
Their music is characterised by the importance given to the voices and by a reduced number of instruments. Their social structure has traditionally had a great influence on their music; only women of the noble or the vassal tribes were once permitted to play the imzad . the small one-stringed fiddle that is the symbol of`Tuareg society, but now any female musician can teach the instrument to any woman who so desires.

 The imzad  is made from half a calabash or from a wooden bowl that is covered with goatskin and to which is also attached a neck that supports one string of horsehair. The imzad players were greatly renowned and could play many melodies, these evoking past events or the high deeds of a hero whose name they bore by the richness of their variations; they could also accompany a man’s singing and. on occasion, also displayed therapeutic powers by curing melancholy and apathy. Good players of the imzad are today becoming ever rarer and its repertoire is inexorably becoming smaller. Lala, the imzad player of the Tartit group is very often happy simply to accompany the other musicians and the songs, keeping herself out of the limelight.

The other instrument that is played exclusively by women is the tindé  made from a small wooden mortar that the women use to grind grains and which been covered with goatskin. The Kel Antessar have two types of tindé , a small (takabart) and a large (aghelaba), whose higher and lower sounds complement each other. Even although it had only until recently been the case that women from the servant tribes were the only ones authorized to play the tindé, now all women may play it. performing popular songs, making up new words to classic melodies to evoke the memory of a hero, encouraging the men, boasting of the women`s merits, or even giving themselves over to bewitching songs that imitate the rhythm of a camel's walk. The percussive sounds of the tindé and the soloist’s song are generally accompanied by a female chorus and by hand clapping on the off-beat.

The imzad and the tindé are both instruments that are well adapted to the nomad life.
 Both are made from everyday objects, a gourd and a mortar respectively, and they can once again be
used for their normal functions after their use as musical instruments. The Tuareg  do not,
however, have a monopoly on such instruments; the Haoussa and the Djerma have one-stringed fiddles that resemble the imzad and many of the African peoples use percussion instruments related to the tindé. 
The Tuaregs have therefore been either a constant influence on or have been  constantly influenced by the peoples that lived around them.
The traces of these intercultural borrowings are particularly visible with the Kel Antessar.
They were amongst the first Tuaregs to use the tehardant, the three-stringed lute that resemble

instruments used by the Songhais, the Peuls and the Moors. A permanent instrument, the tehardant consists of  a canoe-shaped wooden resonance chamber covered with goatskin. A neck supports three strings that were once horsehair but are now synthetic. The tehardunt is, together with their  flute, the only Tuareg instrument that is played by men. Amongst the Kel Antessan the tehardant is played by professional musicians, although this circumstance does not occur in the other confederations.
 Amano ag  Issa belongs to the aggou caste (plural: aggouten), one that corresponds to the griots of the settled peoples. The aggouten belong to the most extended part of the inhadan, the smith‘s or artisan’s caste. The majority of poets and raconteurs traditionally meet at the homes of the above; they are exempt from observing certain rules of behavior and they can skillfully handle criticism and provocation.
 They are sometimes distrusted and  often  feared, notably because of the power that as smiths they have over fire. The Tuaregs of other areas have also adopted not only the music and texts of the tehardunt but also the songs:of  the aggouten. satirical and critical of` the powers that be; it is now therefore possible to hear
 tehardant music also in Gao and in Niamey.

Certain pieces played by the Tartit group mingle the sound of the tehardant and the  tindé with  the voice of 
a male or female soloist, with Amano’s commentaries and with a female chorus.
Such pieces are played on festive occasions such as marriages, children’s ceremonies, various
tributes, and also in honour of a woman who has just divorced. The men and women dance seated cross legged opposite each other, moving and twisting their arms and their hands, playing with glances and being free with their smiles. The music provided by the tehardant and the imzad that now supports the tales describing historical incidents will later also be performed in circumstances that will inspire more gravity and calm during assemblies or talks.

The Tartit group presented Tuareg music from Mali for the first time in Europe during the
festival Wir da Femmes in Liege, Belgium in December 1995. The music that they presented at that time was, however, only a part of the rich repertoire of the Kel Antessar and of the Tuaregs in general.
 This patrimony in perpetual change, as the introduction to the tehardant has shown, is today menaced in part.
The Tuaregs are living through one of the most tragic periods of their history, with droughts,
wars, exodus and exile, settlement, refugee camps and shanty towns, "Will they ever be able to
find their own path again without either losing their reason or the rhythm of their rightness“,
asked the French ethnomusicologist Bernard Lorta-Jacob....
from the notes

I have expressed my admiration for the magical ensemble of Tartit in the past,
I will do it  one more time.
let's listen to them  in their first and best recording so far (just imho)

many thanks to ibn chaaba
photos of Tartit by awel haouati


* * *
!superb early-Tartit!