June 19, 2011


I have asked (the now unfortunately late) Daouda 'Flani' Sangaré about the labelling of this album. And he agreed that "Rythmes du Wassoulou" only partly covers the music he and his friend Alou Fané recorded. Both Flani's and Alou's roots lie in an area just to the east of the Wassoulou. Alou has indicated that he was influenced mostly by the music of the hunters (donso n'goni), but Flani's influences are more diverse.

Compared to their first album (which I posted earlier) the second one has more of Flani than of Alou. Also the themes of their songs seem to get increasingly moral and theatrical. I assume their work with the Ballet National (see this post) had something to do with that.

As a member of the Ballet they were encouraged to do research. Flani told me that whenever he went to his native district he would go and talk to the elders, and would coax them - by gifts of cola nuts and some money - into telling him the tales and legends of the past. He was well aware that, until he would get to a certain age, they were not going to tell him the whole of these stories. And he assured me that he too did not use all of the information he had received...

The main inspiration for their songs came, however, from daily life. "You in Europe sing about the moon and the sun. You can sing about anything as long as it sounds okay", commented Flani when I first interviewed him. "But we have to have a reason to sing a song. The song has to reflect reality, either the reality of today or that of the past. Suppose I would sing about the moon, people would come up to me and ask me what I mean."

Both daily life and the theatrical were obviously present in the song which became their biggest 'hit' ever: "Keleya". The song is about the jealousy ("keleya") between co-épouses (co-wifes) in a polygamous marriage. When performing the song Flani would dress up as a woman, and would at times improvise to add to the comical effect of the song. The song was even recorded for television:

In the video, recorded in 1983, Alou is playing kamalen n'goni and Djourou Diallo flute. The song was later also recorded with the Djata Band, and was re-recorded by Flani, Alou and Djourou in 1995 1987 (see comments) in an austere London studio for the album of the same name which was released by Indigo (label Blue). An album which I - unfortunately - cannot recommend.

Besides "Keleya" the lp which I am sharing with you in this post contains a full palette of wonderful songs.
Starting with "Flédonkli", a song in which Alou and Flani alternately sing the lead. I just love the natural way in which they take turns, while staying in their own style. The two voices meet at the end.
The uptempo rhythm of "Flêlibana" certainly does not remind me of the music of the Wassoulou (apart from the very end, that is). Sung solo by Flani, this song appears to be inspired by a traditional (percussion?) style of Flani's Ganadougou district.

My favourite song on this lp is the last one of the A-side: "Ounhoun Koro". I know this was a favourite of Flani himself too, if only for the 'posé' rhythm (Flani was a sucker for posé rhytms; he loved Haruna Ishola). Alou's subtle ngoni playing is matchless in this song, adding to the posé effect. Flani's voice is full of deep emotion, while Alou's vocal is almost comforting behind him. I especially like the last thirty seconds, when they almost fade out the song, but without touching the volume.

"Mangoya" is perhaps the most Wassoulou style song of the album. It is sung in an almost monotonous singing style by Flani. I am sure this must be related to the lyrics.
You may recall the last song, "Koursigui Tan", from the tribute to Zani Diabaté. In this, the original version, Alou demonstrates that you can increase the tension by playing an apparently very stoic rhythm. I have heard several ngoni players trying to imitate this brilliantly understated style, but so far I have not heard anyone who can match Alou. I never cease to be amazed, by the way, by the timing of Flani in rejoining the song (after 4'07).
I will write about the lyrics of this song in a later post.

Ivoire Polydisc IP 8301

PS: I won't bore you with the technical challenges that have kept me from posting in the last few weeks.