1-2 Weeks
Bougouni Yaalali

YY 002CD YY 002CD

"Bougouni is a town of approximately 20,000 people two hours south-southeast of Bamako, Mali's capital. It was established as a hunting camp a few hundred years ago. We were told there were lions in Bougouni until the mid '60s when they disappeared. Now it's little more than a truckstop on the only paved road connecting Bamako to Sikasso; once however it was the seat of Wasulu culture (even though it is officially in the French instituted cantonment of Banimotie and not Wasulu). Many Bougounians claim to be Muslim but the pull of ancient magic is still strong. I recorded this music in and around Bamako and Bougouni on a minidisc with a small stereo mic. Much of it features the ngoni played in the kamelen style, the style of ngoni playing invented in the 1950s by the Muslim majority government and which has found a home down south. The music was created in response to the continued influence of the powerful and very pagan musician/hunter's brotherhood (the donsos) whose cultural and political influence is still very strong throughout much of Mali. Their songs glorify the old pre-Muslim heroes of Mali like Sunjata (it was Sunjata's grandson Mansa Musa during whose reign Islam was fully accepted by the ruling classes of Mali), and the Muslim government knew it would be unwise to try to ban the donsos outright. So instead the government took the traditional donso-ngoni and retuned it to a higher scale, increased the tempos and inserted what can be rather banal lyrics about doing good for Mali and being a good citizen. Thus kamelengoni music was born. It was meant both to attract the youth (kamelen) and to be antidotal to the ancient and dark wisdom of the donsos. The ngoni players, variously Lassinabe Diakite, Amadou Diakite, Le Vieux, and Drissa Sangare are accompanied by someone scraping on an nkerinye, a tube of hollow metal. Distortion is an inbuilt part of much of this rural Malian music. Both djembe players and ngoni players (kamelen and donso) often add flattened insecticide cans pierced with hundreds of tin rings to the drums and ends of their ngonis; this adds a buzzing sound to everything they play. Dancers often wore anklets made of hundreds of old pop tops. And it was rare to see a public performance wherein the featured artists were not mic'ed and the signal sent through an old preamp and directly to a gigantic single horn speaker. Volume was often cranked past comfortable levels; feedback was ignored if not enjoyed. Audiophilia as it exists in the West did not exist in Mali, or at least the parameters were very different. Ergo the feedback and distortion-laden performance by the 'Griot Band' in Bamako. I recall now that I recorded this on December 31st, 1999. You get but a small selection of their performance; suffice to say I watched a few hours of it and it never really sounded a whole lot different than this few minute selection. Music is literally everywhere in Bougouni and Bamako, and the songs on Bougouni Yaalali (wandering around Bougouni) are representative of what you might (or might not) hear."