Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mali Cassette Grab Bag: Two Mamadou Doumbias and More


This is the final installment of "Mali Cassette Grab Bag," and this one really is a mixed bag. We've got some highlife, some soukous, some kamalan n'goni and a Burkinabé ballad. Researching the artists has been an education for me. Among other things, I chanced across the website of Yaala Yaala Records, which is dedicated to releasing just the sort of music we've been listening to in the last few posts:


In 1999 I moved with my wife and young son to Bougouni, a town on the edge of Mali’s culturally rich Wassulu region. I’d listened to and enjoyed such Malian musical imports as Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita, Toumani Diabite and Habib Koite while still living in the States and was excited to get to Mali to learn more about these and other artists.

I learned very quickly that there was a huge gulf between what many people out in Bougouni listened to and what was being exported to the West; many local Malians made dismissive sounds with their mouths when I mentioned the above musicians. Many of the cassette vendors I got to know stared blankly when I asked about certain artists.

I began to suspect that much of the music I’d heard back in the States was almost created for export rather than for local consumption, and whether or not this was objectively true did not matter. From my perspective it was true. Out en brousse, in the bush, on Radio Banimotie and blaring forth from battery-driven boomboxes and handheld radios carried by any number of people wandering through Southern Mali, there existed an entirely different world of music and sound that I found infinitely more interesting and exciting than the slick pop music made in French, British or Belgian studios.

Much of this music was home-grown music performed locally for little else beyond an immediate audience’s enjoyment; it was traditional or folk music but in the hands of the endlessly inventive and dynamic local musicians it exemplified the best qualities of the do-it-yourself attitude that I’d grown up with back home.

The name Yaala Yaala was taken directly from what many a Bougounian musician would answer when asked “Ça va?” (how’s it going?); “Yaala yaala,” they’d answer. Just wandering.

Yaala Yaala Records’ goal is to release this music, in addition to similar music from parts of the world, particularly Mali and West Africa, that you might hear if you were wandering yourself among the cassette stalls in Bougouni, Bamako, Kolondieba, Sikasso, Segou, Fez, Marrakesh, Cairo, Dakar.

We’re releasing this music for no other reason than we like it!

An attitude with which I wholeheartedly concur! This description of the music scene in Mali pretty much squares with my experiences in Nigeria in 1994 and '95: It wasn't that the average person didn't listen to Sunny Adé or Fela (who was still alive and performing then, a couple of years before he died; I could just kick myself for not catching an advertised concert in Lagos when I was there!) or the other official World Music™ icons. They respected them, but those guys were pretty much old hat. The common folk had a whole 'nother universe of sounds they were tuned into, which blared out of market stalls and taxicabs across the country: Igbo gospel accompanied by cheapo synthesizers and drum machines, wailing, warbling Islamic vocals, soul-thumping perscussion, Hausa praise-singing and hysterical guitar highlife. . .

But I digress. While researching our first four selections on the internet, I was presented with a bit of a quandary. I had thought that these recordings were all by the same artist, but it seems that they are by two different musicians named Mamadou Doumbia, one from Mali and the other from Côte d'Ivoire! And to further befuddle matters, there is yet another Malian musician named Mamadou Doumbia residing in Tokyo, who once played with the Rail Band and Salif Keita and has a band called Mandinka (not to mention an Ivoirian footballer by the same name, who as far as I know has no musical talent!)

I think I've got things sorted out now, so let's proceed: Our first Mamadou Doumbia, "alias Percey," was lead vocalist for Super Biton de Segou, one of Mali's foremost orchestras of the 1980s. When Super Biton fell apart, he struck out on his own, making at least one recording, 1992's outstanding Kelea Diougou (Camara Production 047), from which we take two tracks, "Momdole" and "Secheresse (Dabakala)." "Momdole" is unusual in that it is a melody in the Burkina Faso style.

Mamadou Doumbia alias Percey - Momdole


Mamadou Doumbia alias Percey - Secheresse (Dabakala)

Our next Mamadou Doumbia has apparently been around since the sixties, but that's all I can tell you about him. He gives us two highlife-style songs, "Mariama" and "Olonan," from his 1993 release Mariama (no label YR 07). As an Ivoirian, this Mamadou technically doesn't belong in a post entitled "Mali Cassette Grab-Bag," but who wants to split hairs?

Mamadou Doumbia & l'Orchestre Conseil de l'Entente - Mariama


Mamadou Doumbia & l'Orchestre Conseil de l'Entente - Olonan

And as for the third Mamadou Doumbia, I would love to put up some music by him, but unfortunately don't have any.

Abdoulaye Diabaté, born in Segou in1952, has been singing since he was eight and professionally since 1974, at first in Mali and later in Côte d'Ivoire, and has lately drawn international attention with a series of CD releases. "Fantanya" is the opening track of his casseette Namawou (Syllart SYL 83135):

Abdoulaye Diabaté - Fantanya

Yoro Diallo is from the Wassoulou region, which has produced so many wonderful Malian vocalists, and is a master of the kamalan n'goni, a relative of the kora. Awhile back Awesome Tapes from Africa posted a whole cassette by this artist, and the above-mentioned Yaala Yaala Records has released a CD devoted to his music. I give you here " Tognomagni" from his release Tjekorobani Vol. 2 (Camara Production CK7 157):

Yoro Diallo - Tognomagni

Finally, a track by Djelimadi Sissoko. There is a kora player by that name, who has made some recordings with the veteran maestro Sidiki Diabate, but this song, "Sory Kadia," from the compilation Sabougnouna (no label 7488) is so radically different in style that I'm wondering if this isn't another case of one name, two musicians. Anyway, "Sory Kadia" is ample proof that the wave of soukous that swept out of the Congo in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties did not bypass Mali!

Djelimadi Sissoko - Sory Kadia



As I mentioned earlier, "Mali Cassette Grab Bag" came about because I haven't had time to digitize a lot of new material, so I've been posting stuff that I've had on my hard-drive for some time. I've been working on digitizing some early '70s LPs by the late, great Stephen Osita Osadebe, and hope to have them up, with the requisite commentary, in the next week.

2 comments:

Comb & Razor said...

per usual, excellent stuff! are you sure this absolutely has to be the last Mali Cassette Grab Bag?

thanks for the great info on the artists, too... i know what a pain it can be trying to research folks from the Mali-Senegambia region, what with so many people having the exact. same. names!

speaking of which, i love this Mamadou Doumbia (Percey version).

Wes said...

Sorry I'm late posting on this. The music is great and so is the background you're giving here. Thanks!