Today’s excellence is tomorrow’s tradition; a beautiful thought I’ve been chewing on all day.
Today we learned some new rhythms created by Mamady in our Djembe Lessons. He announced during the inauguration gathering that this time, apart from traditional rhythms, he would focus on his own rhythms as well. This was all a part of telling new stories that will turn into epics and soon after, tradition. There are many popular traditional rhythms like Kuku and Mendiani; whose origins are unknown today because the story, the philosophy wasn’t transmitted or got lost along the way. Today thanks to our handy-dandy Dictaphone and recording devices a legend shall live on… mainly in our beings.

The first rhythm we learned was called, ‘SIRA.’ This is a rhythm created by Mamady Keita in 2007 dedicated to his mother, ‘Nasira.’ With a bout of inspiration, he woke up the day before yesterday early in the morning with the words and tune to this song and since he didn’t want to disturb his wife and daughter he recorded the tune on his phone in the toilet. We are all lucky to witness this; history in the making I think.

Mamady’s moother was a great woman. She went to a fortune-teller when she was pregnant with Mamady and she was told that ‘he will make a name by amusing himself.’ And so it was… Mamady, at a very young age started playing on pots and pans. Mamady got his first djembe at a very young age; the instrument was taller then him many would say. After a very sacred offering of cola nuts to his to-be teacher, we have what we see before us today – a true master. Mamady’s Master’s full name is Karinka Djan Conde. First name is Karinka and family name is Conde.The middle name ‘Djan’ means ‘Big’ because he was a big man. He was not a famous musician. Mamady describes him as ‘a simple farmer in our village. But a true Master’.

Mamady is the last (7th) child of his family. Nasira, his mother, gave him everything he ever needed. She would say, “Take the best of me and father and leave the bad part.” It was because of his mother that Mamady was bestowed with true values, with respect, with education; all pillars to help build his philosophy. “I will follow her advise forever since my present is her gift,” he said.

For the first time online, (I believe) the words for ‘SIRA’, by Mamady Keita:

Ee Sira Demoila (You, who has children)

Na Sira Demoila Gnuma (My Sira {short for Nasira} You are a good mother)

This is what the song sounds like with the Dununs and Mamady playing the djembe when he is not singing:


The song is played much faster during performances. The group was at a stage where this speed seemed right. This song has a haunting nature to it. It is one of those songs that reminded me of many a ‘Bhajan’ sung during ‘Satsangs or Kirtans’ back  home. It’s a repetitive tune that is easy to sing and has an instant appeal to one and all.I suspect we will be singing this sometime soon during Djembe Drum Circle in Pune soon!
And as promised, the sweet song that the advance level sang and played yesterday is called ‘YELENA’. This is also a rhythm that Mamady created. The rhythm, you heard yesterday. The song that goes with it is the sweetest song I have heard in a while. It’s a naughty yet cute way of asking for forgiveness. I think it’s something us guys could use to set things right with our loved ones. (And for those with things all fine and dandy with their ladies, keep this in your repertoire… I’m sure it’ll be of use one day!) The words to the song are:

Yelena N’Doni (Smile at me my dear)

Yelena N’Sonte (It’s not my fault)

And this is what it sounds like: Yelena
The recording of the group singing the song yesterday was bad and so I couldn’t upload it; But it sounded like a beautiful church song. This one is just a substitute to give you a better idea of the song. Women, don’t you just feel more forgiving now?

Coming back to today’s Djembe Class the next rhythm we started but didn’t finish due to lack of time is called, ‘BARA’. There is a short emphasis of both the syllables in the word. If one emphasized on the first syllable only the word would mean ‘work’ and if one focused only on the second, it’d mean a certain type of gourd. Malinke is such a language where emphasis and accent is very important.

‘Bara’ is the place where the village festivals are held. When Mamady was very young, he was taken away from his village Balandugu to brought to Siguiri. Mamady cried all the way up to his destination. He was sad and lost since he was separated from his family, his friends, his village, separated from the ‘Dubalen’ (a tree that saw him grow up.) In Siguiri some people called him to the bara and that was where his journey with the djembe continued and grew without limits. Mamady returned to Balandugu only after 26 years. That was how long he was on his own. He hence, made this rhythm in memory of the bara in Siguiri as he will never forget the day he arrived there, young, lost and weary. This song is an anchor reminding each and every one of us about courage and excellence; two values this master embodies.
Mamady Keita in his element
This is what Bara sounds like: Bara
Tomorrow is class with Famoudou again. I wonder what dance, song, rhythm we are going to get into… I wonder where I’m going to be taken and then I say, as long as my foundation is strong, wherever I fly, I do with courage and excellence…
Wassa Wassa everybody.
Come. Drum. Be One.
Taal Inc.