Continuing the bala theme , I am returning to an artist of whom I have already posted two cassette (here and here). Molobaly Keita appears to have been at the basis of a new phenomenon in Malian youth culture, and more particularly - and more remarkably - urban youth culture.
In the villages of Mali (especially in the southern part of the country) balafon groups have been entertaining children and women for ages. These groups, usually of musicians who also play in larger ensemble at ceremonies and festivities, perform in the street or on any 'square' or opening in the village. Parties like these are part of passing on the culture, and for the children an occasion to practice - or even compete on - their dancing skills.
Over the last ten years, these bala parties have moved to the city. They have taken the place of the Sabar dancing parties or "Sabarni", which for their increasingly indecent and immoral character were banned from the streets of Bamako in the early years of this century. Apparently female dancers were showing off more thigh and behind than the public morals deemed respectable.
The "Balani* show" street parties took their place in the teenage culture of Bamako. As the word suggests, the key instrument in these parties was the balafon.
Personally I think the music of (artists like) Molobaly Keita must have played an essential role in this urbanisation of the village bala parties. And more precisely: this very cassette. For it is the first cassette in which Molobaly used a drumkit.
As I have written before, it took me some time to get used to the drumkit. But I can see now that this opened the way to a completely new 'use' of this - essentially traditional - music.
To give you a better idea of the "Balani show" phenomenon I advise you to watch this very interesting video (in french, - but if you're interested I'll translate it).
Unfortunately it appears that the "Balani show" has taken, like the "Sabarni" before, a turn for the worse. First there were rumours of nightly disturbances and a first call to ban the parties. Then came reports of weapons and people being killed. More recently the calls to ban the parties seem to have grown louder, so it may be just a matter of time before we see the end of the "Balani show".
At least, in Bamako. In the villages there always be bala parties. And in the city....maybe they will continue, but just for children.
Here is Molobaly Keita's third cassette. It features amongst others the track "Signana Tolo" of which I have posted a video earlier.
IK 010 cassette
More bala to follow soon....
* The extension "-ni" signifies "small". So "Balani" is "little bala". It is used like "-ito" in many latin countries...
Harry Miller - Children at Play (1974)
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