Artist Profiles: Famoudou Konaté

Famoudou Konaté

Famoudou Konaté is an exceptional virtuoso on the jembe. Famoudou Konaté was born in 1940 in Sangbarala, in the Hamana region of Guinea – the heart of Malinke country. In 1959, when the federal government of Guinea gathered the best musicians and dancers in the country to form the group Les Ballets Africains de la République de Guinée, Famoudou Konaté was selected to be the first instrumental soloist. He held this position for 26 years.

The years of experience in the ensemble and the interest that has since arisen among Europeans laid the way for him to teach his music outside of his home country. From 1986 until the present, he has been offering regular instruction on an ever increasing basis in Europe and has since extended these activities to include the United States and Canada.

As an experienced, exceptionally skilled instructor whose humor and methodical approach is absolutely captivating, Konaté was awarded an honorary professorship by the College of Fine Arts in Berlin (Hochschule der Künste). In 1993, he completed a successful European concert tour with his African ensemble, Hamana Diyara. Since then, he has performed in concert with groups formed from former students and in solo concerts at museums, academies and conservatories. Konaté has taken on the task of preserving and passing on the rich, but endangered, musical tradition of his people. He is fluent in the entire repertoire of complex Malinke rhythms. The rhythms are comprised of jembe solo patterns and the accompanying patterns of the three bass drums Kenkeni, Sangban and Dununba, which, when played together, form a melodious composite whole. They let the stories each individual rhythm has to tell come to life. Since 1999, he has been working on a book about his life and the culture of the Malinke-Hamana.

Together with his Ensemble Hamana Föli Kan, Famoudou Konaté presented, in addition to traditional rhythms and songs, his own arrangements and compositions fashioned in the style of the traditional music performed on the traditional drums and stringed instruments. With his intense but unpretentious stage presence, Famoudou is able to enthrall his listeners and draw them into one of the most fascinating forms of musical expression in Africa.

Hamana Föli Kan ­ the Voice of Hamana – is an ensemble formed by Famoudou Konaté consisting of two vocalists and an additional four excellent drummers. One of the singers, Kadé Diawara, is highly celebrated throughout Guinea as one of the single most significant jali (griot) women in the country. Kadé Diawara and Famoudou Konaté shared the same stage for many years. At official state visits and festivals in Africa and in Europe, they represented the musical traditions of their homeland.

Lugert Verlag published Rhythms and Songs from Guinea (ISBN 3-89760-150-8) featuring a CD with music by Famoudou Konaté.

Discography

Rhythmen Der Malinke (Museum Collection Berlin, 1991)
Guinée: Percussions et Chants Malinké (Buda Musique, 1998)
Hamana Föli Kan (Buda Musique, 2001)
Guinée: Percussions et Chants Malinké Volume 2 (Buda Musique, 2003)
Hamana Mandenkönö (TARIKUmusique, 2004)
Hamana Namun (TARIKUmusique, 2008)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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