With this magnificent video by Fanta Damba No.2 (recorded by the RTM in 1983) one can't help but thinking: if this is number two, what is number one going to be like?
For this is a real masterpiece.
From the very first note Fanta Damba goes straight for the jugular. And although she is accompanied by only two musicians it feels like there is a huge ensemble at work. Those two musicians are of the top league of Malian accompagnateurs: on ngoni
Fanta Damba's vocal power and the ease of her singing in this song is certainly a highlight in Malian music. When I rediscovered it a few days ago, going through a pile of video cassettes, I watched the full twenty minutes with open mouth, tears streaming down my cheeks.
The song is "Duga" ("vulture"), one of the oldest songs in Malian musical tradition. And although the song is often linked to the epics surrounding Da Monzon Diarra and the Bambara empire of Ségou, there are apparently also people who claim it is a Malinke classic. I recommend reading these - varied - explanations about the lyrics and origin of this song, which can be found here.
A remarkable moment at the beginning is when Fanta is rearranging her foulard; it is the first time I have seen presenter Zoumana Yoro Traoré laugh....
*I was initially sure I heard Zoumana Yoro mentioning Moriba Koita in his introduction of this song. But if you compare this video with the one of Ami Koita, you will have to agree that this is not the same ngoni player. If you have any idea about the surname of this Moctar, please let us know.
EDIT February 28, 2013: Flemming Harrev has sent me a scan of the back of the sleeve of Fanta Damba's record SP 005 which has a photo of Moctar (or Mocktar or Mouctar) Koné:
It's him in the video, don't you agree?