Surrounded by cultures that
specialize in drumming, the
Balanta of Senegal apply the
rhythms of West African
drumming to the realms of
harmony and melody
Embodying his people's tradition, Malang Mané (MA-lang MA-nay) sings and plays side by side on a large two-player balafon with accompanist Oumar Sadio (OO-mar SAH-yo). The Balanta call their distinctively sized balafon the kadj.
Protected by amulets,
Malang's son learns
to play the Balanta balo
from a tender age, as
Malang is the leading balafon player in the heart of Balanta land in Senegal, in the forested region called Casamance. Oumar, once Malang's apprentice, is now a master in his own right. Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance was digitally recorded near Malang's village, Sédhiou (SAY-yoo), Senegal.
Malang is accompanied
by former apprentice
Oumar Sadio, who
sings and plays beside
Malang on the two-
"The latest [Village Pulse recording], Balanta Balo: Talking
Wood of Casamance, comes live and direct from a coconut grove aside a river
in southwestern Senegal. The featured instrument, the balafon, is a 'gourd-resonated
xylophone,' a combination of 'the Mandinka word[s] bala (wood) and fo (to speak),'
according to the well-crafted and engaging liner notes. The seven tracks on
Balanta Balo feature complex, interlocking rhythms that are more subtle
and introspective than you might expect from music designed to accompany community
dances. Much more than a field recording (the sound is both clear and warm),
this is pure music without the filters of culture or the exploitation running
rampant amid the flood of 'World Music' collections. It takes you there, which
is what music is supposed to do in the first place."
--Eric Seyfarth, EcoTraveller
Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance presents the balafon music from
the Balanta people of Guinee-Bissau and Senegal, taped in a coconut grove along
the Casamance River. The music is made by two men, hammering on a single instrument
made of carved wood [suspended] over gourds. "Bird calls appear on some tracks,"
the liner notes tell us. From these simple elements master balafonist Malang
Mané and his former student, singer balafonist Oumar Sadio create forty-five
minutes of mesmerizing music; two men, four hands, two voices, joined into a
singular enterprise. They sing praises to generous neighbors, tell news of a
politician falsely imprisoned and now liberated. They warn of the dishonest
of a Gambian customer, they even sing of the exchange rate. But deep below this
is the insinuating sound of the balafon, its rumbling undertones and almost
imperceptible overtones are almost impossible to separate as the two musicians
act as one [with] the instrument. If you are already captured by the interlacing
strings of the kora of west Africa but have yet to discover the bala,
then you will find this music immediately captivating.
"Cisse" MP3 format (30 sec, 295 KB).
"Sanya" MP3 format (31 sec, 306 KB).
Title: Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance
Artist: Malang Mané
Cat. No.: VPU-1006 (CD)
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