On the Hunt

Sibiri Samake - Dambe Foli
Sibiri Samake

Dambe Foli (Kanaga System Krush, 2010)

Bamana hunters music this is, and it’s important to keep in mind how highly regarded the donso (hunters) remain among the Mande society that was once the foundation of the empire which flourished centuries ago in Mali and other parts of West Africa. In addition to supplying sustenance, hunters were protectors of villages, soothsayers and healers who used natural remedies. Their trademark musical instrument, a twangy, buzzy bass harp called the donso ngoni, is still played today.

Sibiri Samake, pictured on the cover of Dambe Foli with a number of talismanic adornments, is a hunter and healer like those in days of old. He plays the donso ngoni in a manner that is raw and intense, yet nimble and graceful in its own way.

As with nearly all Malian traditional music, you can hear the roots of the blues in these two lengthy and two very lengthy pieces, but what the disc is truly all about is the role of the donso and their commentaries on the virtues of bravery and overall goodness, the evils of sorcery, the futility of making enemies and the basic premise that God is good and man is not.

The instrumentation is simple- lead and supporting ngoni, accompanied by shaken and scraped percussion. Call-and-response vocal patterns change subtly and recur along with similarly low-key shifts in rhythm and melody, since each track is actually comprised of several songs strung together in the ceremonial manner in which donso music is normally played. As such, the album is a challenging listen but an extraordinarily rewarding one also, an hour-plus chunk of pure, unpolished tradition that’s as healing as any natural remedy a donso might prescribe.

Available from www.systemkrush.com

Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.


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