Tag Archives: Burkinabe music

Modern Songs Rooted in Burkinabe Jeli Tradition

Massa Dembele – Mezana Dounia (Izniz Recordings, 2017)

Mezana Dounia is the first album recorded by jeli (praise singers, social commentators and historians, also known as griots) musician Massa Dembele from Burkina Faso. Dembele is a well-known surname within the jeli community.

Massa Dembele writes songs about embracing diversity within Burkina Faso’s ethnic groups, calls out to put an end to forced marriages of young women, the loss of superficial youth beauty, fear of the modern world, betrayal, the way of the jeli, and Massa’s grandmother Yedini.

Mezana Dounia is an acoustic album that highlights Massa Dembele’s gratifying vocals and the hypnotic kamele ngoni (a West African harp-lute). Massa Dembele recorded the album in Burkina Faso’s capital and played all the instruments, including percussion instruments such as calabash, jembe and bara drums.

Two guests appear on Mezana Dounia, Ali Diara on bala (balaphon) and Mamadou Dao on folikan flute.

The original lyrics in Mande are available in English, translated by Massa Dembele and Sarah Lajoie Flyng Ouédraogo at www.izniz.com/massa-demebele.pdf.

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Artist Profiles: Farafina

Farafina

Farafina was founded in the early eighties in Burkina Faso. Right from the beginning they were enthusiastically welcomed by their audiences who were fascinated by so much virtuosity.

Their ability to expand their music without denying their traditional instruments has enabled them to experience new forms and record with musicians such as Jon Hassell, the Rolling Stones, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Daniel Lanois, Billy Cobham, and Joji Hirota. They played several times at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and for 72,000 listeners at the famous Nelson Mandela’s birthday concert in the London Wembley Stadium.

Their music interweaves complex and forceful rhythms and is carried by the melodic lines of balafons, flute and koras. The songs are played on traditional instruments while their lyrics deal with present issues of African realities in a critical though hopeful way.

But they stayed faithful to their own track. So while integrating new orchestral forms and melodies, and adding contemporary sounds (guitar and keyboard), the balafons, koras, flute, jembes, tama, and baras still remain the core and hearth of their music. Last but not least, the arrival of a female voice introduces a new color to this up till now male only ensemble.

During their odyssey of 30 years the group naturally faced some changes. Thus, its founder Mahama Konaté left the group in 1991. Others came and went and still others died. New and younger musicians have joined the group. All came in through the so called “Farafina School” which continues the African tradition of having the children, from their youngest ages on, attend the concerts of their elders and trying to repeat the music they hear all day long. In this way an astonishing and remarkable musical continuity is guaranteed.

Farafina creates a subtle music that is sensitive and ardent at the same time. It draws your body and mind into discovering not only the African life but a universal life nourished with rhythms leading all the way to the roots of jazz.

Farafina

Reinvented by encounters with modernity, Manding influences, the music of Burkina Faso’s neighboring countries, the melodies of the people of Mali, Niger and the legends of Kong and the chants and drums of Ghana and Benin, all contribute to the richness of Farafina’s s work.

Discography

* Farafina Live At Montreux Jazz Festival (Artways Productions ART 2929, 1985). Produced by Artways.

* Bolomakote (VeraBRA/Intuition 26, 1989)

* Faso Denou (Realworld CDRW 35, 1993), produced by Billy Cobham & Daniel Lanois

* Nemako (Intuition Music INT 3241-2, 1998), produced by Michel Schaer and Thierry van Roy

* Kanou (Intuition Music/L’Empreinte Digitale ED 13134, 2001), produced by Heinz Dill and Thierry van Roy.

Recording Collaborations

* Flash of the Spirit (Intuition Music & Media INT 3009-2, 1988). Produced by Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois. Recorded in New-York after a series of five concerts in Europe together with Jon Hassel
* Beauty (CDVUS 14, 1989) Collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto for the recording of three titles
* Steel Wheels (Rolling Stones Records 4657522, 1989). The Rolling Stones invited Farafina to participate on the recording of the track Continental Drift.

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