Famoudou Konate and Mamady Keita, both, keep emphasizing the importance of woman. They say that, their entire past, present and future was carved out of, is the gift of and lies in the hands of a woman. It was women who would organize festivals where  Djembefola’s would be invited. It was the women, because of whose behaviour and respect, the character of all men, both young and old, was built. Both masters mention this repeatedly and rightfully so, today’s day is a tribute to women.

Since Famoudou was running a bit late, Michael  Taylor from Holy Goat Percussion started us off on a nice warm up exercise; A triplet-Bass-Tone-Tone-Bass-Slap-Slap with hands interchanging. Famoudou walked in just as we finished and I feel that he organically structured his session so that he would build our warm up exercise in as one of the accompanying parts for the rhythms to come. Sheer brilliance.

From Left to Right – Hiroki Murai, Monette Marino-Keita Famoudou Konate and Michael Taylor wearing the Taal Inc. T-Shirt

We started off with a rhythm called ‘Gidamba’. This is a rhythm that is similar to Tiriba. (Note – Tiriba was originally only played on Djembe’s. The Dunun section has been created and so is a modern day adaptation). Gidamba is played for marriage ceremonies, festivals, baptism ceremonies, circumcision ceremonies and many more. There are many songs that can be sung to this rhythm but Famoudou taught us this one as it is in his book-Rhythms and Songs from Guinea.He said, “All  children love their mothers.” Children respect their mothers a lot in Africa. They boast of their mother’s prowess and neglect their shortcomings. He said, “If your mother is disabled or is a thief or is a small person, you can’t say anything back  because she if your mother! You respect her.” He said that children could forget their dad’s but not their mothers and that if a man is strong it is because his mother respected her husband (his father). Simple, subtle and hard hitting, I think. This is, hence, a rhythm that is for all women, specially those who are mothers.

The words are:

Nankuma Ina Barana

Mona Lena Di

Ina Bake Kundulendi

Mona Lena Di

Nankuma is a name. It could be the name of any woman. Mona Lena Di means, ‘Your Mother  is your Mother’. Kundu is a small boy or young boy.

This is what this song sounds like: Gidamba

You will hear a female voice lead the group midway. This woman is ‘Mabiba Baenge‘. She is somebody Mamady calls, ‘mother’. She is a beautiful woman who plays the dununs with as much authority ad she does, the djembe. She also sings like a very strong earthy singer. She has a beautiful smile and is a very warm person to have in class. She is an inspiration to many a woman drummer today.

Famoudou was is great spirits today.  He was carrying around some colourful ‘Pom Poms’ and I was wondering how it would be of use. Famoudou, is known to surprise and I was very very intrigued.

The next rhythm we played is called ‘DABA.’ This is a ‘Mendiani’ family rhythm. Where Famoudou comes from, Hamanah (Upper Guinea), the rhythm Mendiani has become extinct. Only  Daba is now played. To give you a brief background on Mendiani – This is a rhythm and a dance for virgins. Each village usually has four sectors. Each sector will have one ‘Mendiani’. One of the women (previously a Mendiani) is considered the ‘mother’ of the other girls part of this group and will be responsible to teach them the Mendiani dance (as it has particular steps), philosophy and secrets. The dance is very acrobatic and goes on for several hours. One girl (between the ages of 6 and 13) will be chosen by the ‘mother’ to represent the sector and she will see a Fetish Maker who will bathe the girl and make her ‘Gree Gree’ or talisman or articles of spiritual power so that the girl feels confident and strong as she dances the Mendiani. As an offering for the Fetish Makers services, four red cola nuts from  the ‘Lenke’ tree or one ‘Mama Don Don’ (a majestic multi colour feathered rooster) are (is) given to him. “If not, it just won’t work”, said Famoudou.

‘Da’ means pot of clay in which ‘Gree  Gree’ is stored.

‘Ba’ means big.

Therefore, ‘Daba’ means the big clay pot where ‘Gree Gree’ is stored. The song is sung by the other young girls as the chosen one dances the Mendiani. They sing about how the ‘Gree Gree’ that was in the ‘Daba’ made by the fetish maker has helped the chosen one dance her heart out and emerge as number one.

The lyrics  of the song:

Onde  Onde

E Daba Diya

La Gyi Dio N’de

Here’s what it sounds like: Daba

I notice that I have not spoken about drumming much in today’s entry. Let’s just say that the drumming is heating up just like the Echauffements in the rhythms. An Echauffement is the section of the rhythm where the dancer comes  in and signals an increase in intensity, tempo and overall dynamic of everything- djembe, dununs and all. And every ‘Echauff’ (as it is known in short) differs; there are many a pattern. We had some wicked patterns thrown at us which we gladly ate up, hungry for  more.
Midway we shifted to the dununs and boy was that section powerful. The dunun section for both these rhythms resembled our Ganesh Chaturti Dhol and Tasha Procession rhythm quite a bit. I was in the seventh heaven playing the Dununba,  Sangban and Kenkeni parts for these rhythms. The Dununba pattern for Daba did fox me a little bit but thanks to Tara and the other Aussies, I figured it out.
This section was specially entertaining as Famoudou put to good use all the decorations he has brought with him. Here, have a look see –
Famoudou loving his bad self
Famoudou is a great dancer ladies and gentlemen. He is the most vibrant man (in his late sixties I’d imagine) I’ve seen so far. God bless his energy and kind soul. I do believe that a true master is gauged by his humility and his warmth apart from his talent. That is why people from all over the globe flock to one place to be witness to these two institutions of West-African drumming and culture.

I left with high spirits…

I had to move hotels since the one where I was staying would become expensive since a convention was taking place. This means cash-in time for hotels. I have not moved to 500 West hotel on Broadway. One of the drummers, Kaylie was kind enough to give me a ride all the way so I didn’t have to lug my baggage all over the city walking. The new room is smaller but I will survive; as long as there is rhythm, I will survive.

I was invited over to the Aussie-home (where Tara, Michi, Bruce, Linda, Raphael and Nancy live) for dinner where chef Bruce had barbecued up a storm. They say that a family that eats together, stays together… amen to that guys! In return I have promised them India food. So, all you master Indian cooks reading this, please leave your comments as to what I should  make for them that’s easy, quick and representative of our oh-so-complicated-culinary-culture.

Until then, I shall sleep over  it and prepare myself for a day with Mamady and a wonderful weekend ahead!

Goodnight World.

Come. Drum. Be One.