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2005 release. "Anyone who hears the performances on this CD will understand right away that Mamadou Diabaté is a master of his instrument, the 21-string Mande harp of West Africa, the kora. As the name indicates, the Diabatés are griots -- or jeliw -- performers with an ancestral duty to preserve memory of the past through music, song and oratory. As a boy, Mamadou used to accompany his blind grandfather, Seydou Diabaté, as he visited various jatigui (nobles) around Kita and played for them on his ngoni. Seydou was especially fond of playing the song 'Alfa Yaya Jalloh,' composed for the great Fulani king in the Fouta Djalon, in present day Senegal and Guinea. Within the words to that song were lines sung in a very old form of the Mandinka language called Behmanka. Mamadou says,
'Behmanka means people who do good things for society, people who worked hard in their lives so that people were proud of them. This is a word the Mandinka people like to use a lot.'
In choosing Behmanka as the name for his solo album, Mamadou honors his personal and artistic ancestry, as a jeli must. But make no mistake: Mamadou is a forward-looking, innovative player, and the versions of traditional songs here are absolutely unique to him. Mamadou has his stylistic preferences. He favors the silaba tuning, essentially a major tuning, as opposed to some of the modal tunings also used by kora players. He also plays in the key of D major, highly unusual for kora players today, who almost always perform in F-major and its related modes. Above all, Mamadou infuses these performances with his unparalleled technique, and with all the ideas and influences he's absorbed in his adventurous, musically rich life."
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