May 13, 2013


It has been quite a lot of work collecting the material for this post. In all I have spent nearly six months going through unlabelled videos, looking for what I was sure I had recorded. I was dangerously close to giving up when I found it, on a tape with varied recordings from local television (when it still existed...), hiding behind a disappointing documentary on Sunda music.

These songs are taken from a film entitled "Faja Lobbi" from Dutch cinematographer Herman van der Horst. The full film/documentary can been seen here. And I can certainly recommend it, if only for the absence of any form of commentary (and that's usually the part that irritates).

Although I had seen this film in the 1970s I was not aware that the title "faja lobi" (or "lobbi") referred to a flower, and that this flower is (or was) the national flower of Suriname, the south-american country which until 1975 was a colony of the Netherlands*. Up to this day the first thing that comes to mind with "faja lobi" is .. well .. plant-related, but not of the flowery kind. I tend to associate "faja lobi" with spicy peanut soup, - of the type that burns a hole in the lining of your stomach and which I used to eat 'con mucho gusto' (until it did...).

There is more.
For the former Dutch record company Philips also released an EP with music of Big Jones and his Kawina Band, i.e. the artist featured in the film.

The second track, "Ala pikin nèngre", is the first song in the video.

I will refrain from making superfluous remarks about the African nature or origins of this music....

Philips 430 711 NE

* It is actually slightly more complicated. Suriname was a colony from around 1667 until 1954, when it became an independent part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The last ties were cut on November 25, 1975.

EDIT January 29, 2014: The video has been blocked on YouTube after claims that it infringes on the copyrights, which are apparently owned by TopNotchVOF, which I suspect is the company behind TopNotch music. I would not be surprised if the company had no intention whatsoever to promote or publish any of the works by this artist, - which makes their claim even sadder (the biography of the founder of the company certainly contributes to this sadness ....).

May 12, 2013

More videos

I have updated a few videos. First I have collected all I have of the programme "L'artiste et sa musique" featuring the (unfortunately late) queen of kamalen ngoni music Coumba Sidibé into one video:

This is really all I have of this absolutely legendary performance. But I am still hoping, of course, that one day someone will come up with more and/or in a better quality.

Secondly I have redigitised the video of Oumou Sangaré's song "Yayoroba", to which I was referring in the last post. And I have added a second song, which you will no doubt recognise as "Saya Magnin". The dancer I was referring to comes in at about 8'50...

And finally, as a bonus, I am adding a video of less than a minute of a rare version of "Djama Kaissoumou", a song which was one of Oumou's first hits and featured on the cassette which launched her into stardom. Again, it's all I have.....

Isn't that lovely?


This post is mostly intended to draw your attention to this remarkable video posted on YouTube by Ngoniba:

And if, like me, you can't get enough of these videos, please look around for more on Ngoniba's Youtube channel. Here is one to help you on your way.

The principle star of these videos is, of course, Mariam Bagayogo. You may remember the video I posted a few years ago. As I mentioned then, besides the singing and the balafons accompanying her I was particularly fascinated by the dancing. And, having watched Ngoniba's videos a few times, I am again fascinated by the intricate dancing in these videos.

It is no secret that dance is at the core of a lot of (if not most) music in Africa. When I first started interviewing Malian artists in the 1980s I was struck by the frequent use of the word "rythme" when they were talking about songs. It soon became clear to me that this was not accidental, but that rhythm and music are the same thing, or part of the same thing. And that rhythm also meant dance. Talking to Daouda 'Flani' Sangaré and Alou Fané, who had both been dancers with the Ballet National du Mali, I learnt that all the dances have a meaning, as does the rhythm. A dance can carry a message, like "I fancy you" or "I respect you", or can - for example - be used to underline the dancers' identity as part of a group, family, caste etcetera.

When it comes to dances there still are many misconceptions with the 'general public' in the western world. "African dances" often are seen as very exhuberant, with arms and legs flapping all over the place, and - preferably - with loud djembe drumming. Fortunately, most dances are not like this, and are actually very controlled and wonderfully subtle. I remind you of that fantastic dancer in the Oumou Sangaré video I posted earlier, or Alou Fané's delightfully understated dancing in this video.
The movements of the dances by Mariam Bagayogo also do not conform with the general idea of "african dances". Look at this video by Mariam from 1986 for example (another one from Ngoniba):

The flexing of the knees, the step: dance and music are one.

EDIT May 12, 2013: Ngoniba has sent me a link to a recent and very interesting article on Maliweb about Mariam Bagayoko. In this article she talks about her career and about her situation at the age of 70. Apparently she has taken over the care of the 17 children and 4 wives of two of her brothers who have passed away. Her message to Malian readers is that they should follow in the footsteps of their elders, i.e. respect the traditions.

EDIT September 22, 2013: I have had to remove the link to the article on Maliweb, as the site appears to be hacked.