Saturday, May 26, 2007

My newest friend (and a sample of his music)

Adama Dembele playing the kora he made by hand

Wandering the streets of Manhattan, I've heard sidewalk musicians play just about every instrument under the sun, from harmonicas to hurdy-gurdies, saxophones to steel drums.
But I never heard someone playing the kora until Saturday, in Washington Square Park.

Adama Dembele is a griot from Burkina Faso, West Africa. He is descended from a long line of griots and has brought centuries' worth of this tradition of musical oral history to America.

Dembele's wonderfully intricate music is exotic to be sure, but there's something vaguely familiar about it (click here for a sample, but read my note first*). The phrasing, the rhythms seem to embrace Western sensibilities like an old flannel shirt.

And with good reason: West Africa is the mother of most of the music we hold dear. Rhythm and blues, gospel, rock, blues, rap -- they all have their roots in West Africa and they all started shaping our music the minute the first slave ship landed on these shores.

My personal favorites are the richly textured music of Senegal and Gambia, the sounds of which echo in music as diverse as Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley and Chuck D.
And today, I discovered Burkina Faso's wonderful contribution to the mix.


*This is a 5.2MB .wma sound file, so it will take about a minute to download, depending upon the speed of your Internet connection. The song is 5 minutes, 37 seconds long. If you would like to learn more about Adama or buy one of his CDs, e-mail me at henro1962(at)yahoo(dot)com and I'll send you his e-mail address, and you can work out the details between yourselves.


Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Wonderfull post, I find myself wishing for a sound sample to go with the pictures.

Michael said...

Thanks, Jordan. Yes, Adama is a wonderful musician. I'll see if I can create a link to an MP3 file; I just have to figure out how to do it.

Michael said...

Thanks, Jordan, for the suggestion of adding an MP3 file to the post!

Jordan & The Tortoise said...

Thanks for adding the sound clip.
That really tied in well.

Michael said...

And thank YOU for the suggestion!

Brotha Buck said...

Haven't downloaded it yet. But I will. I also have a new friend, a Nigerian, engineering scientist. Talented and creative people. Thanks for the link.

Michael said...

Yes, I'm truly blessed to have encountered so many amazing people in my wanderings.

Stille said...

You´ll like
Toumani Diabaté &
and Vieux Farka Touré , too.

Michael said...

Hello Stille,

Thanks for the recommendations!

Ester Wolf said...

Hi Michael,

Wonderful music. You are truly very blessed to meet "the world" literally just outside your window. I have always admired your photographs and now, a treat to this wonderful music! Thank you!

Have you looked into this website: www(dot)imeem(dot)com it allows you upload then embed tunes in your blog/webpage.

Cheers! "Mall"

Michael said...

Hi Mall,

It's been a long, long time! How are you?

Many thanks for your comments (as always) and also for the tip about embedding MP3s in blogs. I'll have to check that out.

Hope to see you again SOON!