June 08, 2009


She has the appearance of a girl, - but one with a voice like a dagger. Na Hawa Doumbia is one of the great singers of the Wassoulou you can't help loving. Although she has wandered along a musical path I personally have no interest in following, I still admire her for the stubbornness and decisiveness in which she gone her own way.

Born in a village near the Ivorian border but raised in Bougouni (Sikasso region), Na Hawa started off in the Chant Solo category of the Biennale Artistique et Culturelle, with wonderful songs like "Nyama toutou" (1974), "Banani" (1978) - the song in the video at the bottom of this post - and "Tignè de be laban" (1980), with which she won first prize. From there she was allowed to participate in the Découverte competition of Radio France Internationale, where she was first in the category 'Songs with a traditional source'. This meant that she could perform at the soirée at the Théâtre Daniel Sorano in Dakar. Her performance accompanied by her guitarist (and husband) N'Gou Bagayogo attracted so much attention that was invited to record an album. This album, "Kourouni", released in 1981, was followed by a second, "Sakory Mery", in 1982 and by a third, "Korodia", in 1983.

This third album was Na Hawa's first attempt of finding her own way in music. It is a discovery of possibilities and perspectives. In fact, there is only one 'foreign' instrument in this album: the piano. But the way the piano interacts with guitar, kamelan n'goni and percussion is completely unique.
On the lp three* songs from the "Sakory Mery" album are repeated. The reason for this I don't know. Maybe she wanted to contrast the new songs with the old.
To me it doesn't matter, I still can't help loving this unique singer from Bougouni....

AS Records AS 011

Here is, as a bonus, a delightful video featuring Na Hawa performing her 1978 song "Banani" in the streets of Bougouni.

* I am only including two of these. I will post the other two albums at a later date. The posted tracks are, by the way, compiled from several cassettes.


ZubZub said...

Excellent - you've got one of the best blogs going.
Always a treat - thank you!

symbolkid said...

thank you very much! it creates a rather complex ambience. enjoy.

Momo said...

The Queen of "DIDADI"
many thx for this album

Anonymous said...

Mr Worldservice,can you confirm me, that the strange sounds that seem to be electronics interferences at some point in the tape and are not ripe effect?

Nahawa and I brought together all week and when I come to Sakori Meri and Jigui Yiri I suffer some stress the other tracks sound quite clean.

WrldServ said...

@Ngoni: I know what you mean.
I am assuming the two tracks from Vol. 2 were not on the lp version of this album but were added for the cassette version, of which I have three different copies. That explains why the distortion is only on these tracks.
As to the source of the distortion I have no clue; it is even worse on the other versions of this cassette.

Anonymous said...

she is wonderful, thank you. track 2 is a gem. can we have more please? why do you say you are not interested in the path she has chosen? i'm interested as i dont know anything about her. sam

David said...

A tangential question: I was listeining to her first EP/LP recording from 1981 [now again available as download from iTunes etc] and realised how good her guitarist is! It's a really wonderful piece of playing behind her voice. I've seen his picture on sleeve repros etc - but nothing I can find tells me who he is? I wondered if your enormous knowledge of Malian music might include this detail?


WrldServ said...

@David: As I wrote, the guitarist is Na Hawa's husband, N'Gou Bagayoko. They are the parents of another Malian singer: Doussou Bagayoko.