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Music of Mali

Music of Mali

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The Music of Mali is dominated by forms derived from the ancient Mande Empire. The Mande people make up most of the country's population, and their musicians, professional performers called jeli
Griot
A griot or jeli is a West African storyteller. The griot delivers history as a poet, praise singer, and wandering musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards...

w (sing. jeli, French griot), have produced a vibrant popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

 scene alongside traditional folk music
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

. Influences also come from the hundreds of ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

s surrounding Mali, as well as Moorish
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an musical forms.

Mande music


Styles: donkilo - jaliya - kumbengo - praise singing - sataro - Wassoulou hunters' song. Instruments: balo - balafon
Balafon
The balafon is a resonated frame, wooden keyed percussion idiophone of West Africa; part of the idiophone family of tuned percussion instruments that includes the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone...

 - bolon - djembe
Djembe
A djembe also known as jembe, jenbe, djbobimbe, jymbe, yembe, or jimbay, or sanbanyi in Susu; is a skin-covered drum meant played with bare hands....

 - doundoun
Dunun
A Dunun is the generic name for a family of West African bass drums that developed alongside the djembe in the Mande drum ensemble...

 - fle
FLE
FLE is the acronym for the French Français langue étrangère or "French as a foreign language," similar to EFL. There is no single test like the TOEFL, but instead a variety of possible tests used to measure language proficiency of non-francophones in non-francophone countries...

 - kamalengoni - karinyan - kontingo - kora
Kora (instrument)
The kora is a 21-string bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa.-Description:A kora is built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, and has a notched bridge. It does not fit well into any one category of western instruments and would have to be...

 - ngoni
Ngoni (instrument)
The ngoni or "n'goni" is a string instrument originating in West Africa. Its body is made of wood or calabash with dried animal skin stretched over it like a drum. In the hands of a skilled ngoni instrumentalist, the ngoni can produce fast rapid melodies...

 - soku
Soku
A soku is a traditional West African instrument used in a type of music called Wassoulou which originated in the Wasulu region of southwest Mali. It is a traditional fiddle, sometimes replaced by modernized versions of the instrument. Known as the n'diaraka or njarka in Songhai, it is composed of...

 - tama - tamani
Tamani
Tamani is a small town and commune in the Cercle of Barouéli in the Ségou Region of southern-central Mali. As of 1998 the commune had a population of 14,858....

.
Other:jali
Jali
A jali is the term for a perforated stone or latticed screen, usually with an ornamental pattern constructed through the use of calligraphy and geometry. Early work was performed by carving into stone, while the later more elegant used by the Mughals employed the technique of inlay, using marble...

. Mande include the Mandinka, Maninka and Bamana.

The Mande people are divided into various groups based on language. They all claim descent from the legendary warrior Sunjata Keita, who founded the Mande Empire. The Mandeka kan, language of the people of Mande is spoken with different dialects in Mali and in parts of surrounding Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso – also known by its short-form name Burkina – is a landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the southwest.Its size is with an estimated...

, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west....

, Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

, Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 and The Gambia
The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....

. The most common dialects of Mandeka kan are Bamanan kan and Djoula kan. Djoula kan, a sub-dialect of Bamanan kan, is spoken by descendants of Bamanan people who settled mainly in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso through trade or the expansion of the Mande Empire and the Bamanan and Kenedougou kingdoms. Djoula which means trader in Bamanan, and kan means language. The Djoula kan dialect was born from the influence of local languages on Bamanankan, which is itself a Mandekan dialect. As local people in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso called the travelling traders by their trade name (Djoula), they also used the same name to identify the language they spoke (Djoula kan). Mande music remains a very important aspect of Malian culture. One confusing aspect of the Mande groups is the integration of Fula people
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

  into Mande culture. The Mansa Sunjata forced some of these pastoral herders to settle in various regions where the dominant ethnic groups were Maninka or Bamana. Thus, today, we see a number of people with Fula names (Diallo, Diakite, Sangare, Sidibe) who display Fula cultural characteristics, but only speak the language of the Maninka or Bamana.

Maninka


Maninka music traces its roots back more than eight centuries to a folkloric epoch at the time of the great Mansa Sunjata during the great Mande-centered Mali Empire
Mali Empire
The Mali Empire or Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufa was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I...

, and his semi-mythic rivallry with ruler Soumaoro Kante. Mansa Sunjata sent his jeli
Griot
A griot or jeli is a West African storyteller. The griot delivers history as a poet, praise singer, and wandering musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards...

 (modern day historian/musician/orator), or advisor, Diakouma Doua, to learn the secrets of his rival Soumaoro of the Susu people
Susu people
The Soso are a major Mande ethnic group living primarily in Guinea. Smaller communities are also located in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Senegal and Mali. The Susu are descendants of the thirteenth century Mali Empire...

. During this encounter he finds an instrument now known as the "Soso Bala" (believed to be the semi-magical first Balafon
Balafon
The balafon is a resonated frame, wooden keyed percussion idiophone of West Africa; part of the idiophone family of tuned percussion instruments that includes the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone...

). In jeli folklore this instrument is said to have been the source of the great sorcerer Soumaoro's power. When Soumaoro heard the beautiful music that Diakouma played on the bala (currently referred to as a balafon, fon was added by Occidental
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

s) Soumaoro named him Bala Fasseke Kwate (Master of the bala). The Soso Bala still rests with the descendents of the Kouyate lineage in Niaggasola, Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

, just across the modern border from Mali.

Maninka music is often mistakenly labeled diatonic. Actually, Maninka uses multiple tuning
Musical tuning
In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:* Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice.* Tuning systems, the various systems of pitches used to tune an instrument, and their theoretical bases.-Tuning practice:...

s, both major and minor, as well as some "semi-tone" scale
Musical scale
In music, a scale is a sequence of musical notes in ascending and descending order. Most commonly, especially in the context of the common practice period, the notes of a scale will belong to a single key, thus providing material for or being used to conveniently represent part or all of a musical...

s. Adherence to note relationships (not writing), decades of ear training and transpositions, that enables the Maninka musician to easily adjust to other styles, tunings, and repertoires of music. Maninka music is a major part of the African roots of American blues music.

Instruments


The common instruments of the Maninka jeli ensemble are the kora (21-24 string lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

-harp
Harp
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones and has its own sub category . All harps have a neck, resonator and strings...

, classified by the manner of playing as well as the bridge
Bridge (instrument)
A bridge is a device for supporting the strings on a stringed instrument and transmitting the vibration of those strings to some other structural component of the instrument in order to transfer the sound to the surrounding air.- Explanation :...

 structure), the bala
Balafon
The balafon is a resonated frame, wooden keyed percussion idiophone of West Africa; part of the idiophone family of tuned percussion instruments that includes the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone...

 (a slat idiophone
Idiophone
An idiophone is any musical instrument which creates sound primarily by way of the instrument's vibrating, without the use of strings or membranes. It is the first of the four main divisions in the original Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification...

 constructed of wood with small gourd
Gourd
A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons. The term 'gourd' however, can more specifically, refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita or also to their hollow dried out shell...

 resonator
Resonator
A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior, that is, it naturally oscillates at some frequencies, called its resonant frequencies, with greater amplitude than at others. The oscillations in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical...

s, similar to a xylophone
Xylophone
The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets...

), the n'goni (a 4-7 string lute), the jeli
Griot
A griot or jeli is a West African storyteller. The griot delivers history as a poet, praise singer, and wandering musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards...

 dununba (a large mallet drum hung from one shoulder and played with a curved stick, accompanied by a bell
Bell (instrument)
A bell is a simple sound-making device. The bell is a percussion instrument and an idiophone. Its form is usually a hollow, cup-shaped object, which resonates upon being struck...

 played with the opposite hand), the n'taman (an hourglass
Hourglass
An hourglass measures the passage of a few minutes or an hour of time. It has two connected vertical glass bulbs allowing a regulated trickle of material from the top to the bottom. Once the top bulb is empty, it can be inverted to begin timing again. The name hourglass comes from historically...

 shaped tension drum
Drum
The drum is a member of the percussion group of musical instruments, which is technically classified as the membranophones. Drums consist of at least one membrane, called a drumhead or drum skin, that is stretched over a shell and struck, either directly with the player's hands, or with a...

, both large and small variations, often called the talking drum), and the tabale
Tabale
Tabale is a village in the Bassar Prefecture in the Kara Region of north-western Togo.-External links:**...

 (a tall conga
Conga
The conga, or more properly the tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum with African antecedents. It is thought to be derived from the Makuta drums or similar drums associated with Afro-Cubans of Central African descent. A person who plays conga is called a conguero...

-shaped drum played with long, thin flexible sticks). Since the 1950s the jeli have also added the guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 to their repertoire
Musical repertoire
Musical repertoire is a collection of music pieces played by an individual musician or ensemble, or composed for a particular instrument or group of instruments, voice or choir.-See also:*Brass Quintet Repertoire*Classical guitar repertoire...

 which now plays a significant role in much of jeli music. Most modern touring musicians mix traditional instruments with guitar, electric bass
Electric Bass
Electric bass can mean:*Electric upright bass, the electric version of a double bass*Electric bass guitar*Bass synthesizer*Big Mouth Billy Bass, a battery-powered singing fish...

, keyboards, and drum set. As Jeli Lamine Soumano states: "If you want to learn the bala go to Guinea or Mali. If you want to learn the kora go to Gambia or Mali. If you want to learn the n'goni you have only to go to Mali." Each area has developed a specialty instrument, while still recognizing that the roots of the related forms come from Mali.

Most vocalists are female in everyday Mande culture, partially due to the fact that many traditional celebrations revolve around weddings and baptisms, mostly attended by women. Several male and female singers are world renowned. Although it once was rare for women to play certain instruments, in the 21st century women have broadened their range.

Players


The traditional form of the jenbe ensemble is most commonly attributed to the Maninka and Maraka ethnic groups. In its most basic arrangement there is one small dunun (konkoni) and one jenbe soloist. A jenbe accompanist who carries a steady pattern throughout the piece has since been added, as well as the addition of the jeli dununba (also referred to as the Kassonke dunun, names derived from the style of playing and not distinctions of the physical instruments), and the n'tamani (small taliking drum). Many ethnic groups, including the Kassonke, the Djokarame, the Kakalo, the Bobo, the Djoula, the Susu, and others, have historical connections to the jenbe as well.

Maninka music is the most complex of the three Mande cultures. It is highly ornamented and heptatonic, dominated by female vocalists and dance
Dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

-oriented rhythms. The ngoni
Xalam
Xalam, also spelled khalam, is the Wolof name for a traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa. The xalam is thought to have originated from modern-day Mali, but some believe that, in antiquity, the instrument may have originated from ancient Egypt...

 lute is the most popular traditional instrument. Most of the best-known Maninka musicians are from eastern Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

 and play a type of guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 music that adapts balafon
Balafon
The balafon is a resonated frame, wooden keyed percussion idiophone of West Africa; part of the idiophone family of tuned percussion instruments that includes the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone...

-playing (traditional xylophone
Xylophone
The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets...

) to the imported instrument.

Bamana


The traditional music of the Bamana is dominated by the percussion instruments fileh (one-half calabash
Calabash
Lagenaria siceraria , bottle gourd, opo squash or long melon is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable, or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle, utensil, or pipe. For this reason, the calabash is widely known as the bottle gourd...

 hand drum), gita (calabash bowl with seeds or cowrie shells attached to give a "clack" sound when rotated),the karignyen (metal scraper), the bonkolo drum (played with one open hand and a thin bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 stick), the kunanfa (large bowl drum covered by a cowhide
Cowhide
Cowhide is the natural, unbleached skin and hair of a cow. It retains the original coloring of the animal. Cowhides are a natural product/by-product of the food industry from cattle. Cowhide can also be processed into a leather, which can be used to make such things as shoes, wallets and leather...

 and played with the open hands, often referred to as "barra", or "chun"), the gangan (Bamana name for a small, mallet
Mallet
A mallet is a kind of hammer, usually of rubber,or sometimes wood smaller than a maul or beetle and usually with a relatively large head.-Tools:Tool mallets come in different types, the most common of which are:...

-struck dunun, essentially the same instrument as the konkoni, or kenkeni, played with the jenbe ensemble). The melodic instruments of the Bamana are typically built around a pentatonic structure. The slat idiophone bala, the 6-string doson n'goni (hunter's lute-harp) and its popular version the 6-12 string kamel n'goni, the soku (gourd/lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

 skin/horse hair violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

 adopted from the Songhai, soku literally means "horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 tail"), and the modern guitar are all instruments commonly found in the Bamana repertoire. Bamana culture is centered around Segou, Sikasso, the Wassalou region, and in eastern Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 near the border of Mali's Kayes region. Bamana music is also a major factor in American Blues.

Bamana-speaking peoples live in central Mali; the language is the most common in Mali. Music is simple and unadorned, and pentatonic. Well-known Bamana performers include Mali's first female musical celebrity, Fanta Damba
Fanta Damba
Fanta Damba is a Malian jalimuso known to her fans as La Grand Vedette Malienne. She began singing as a child, growing up in a family of musicians. She began recording in her early twenties with Radio Mali. In 1975, she became the first jalimuso to tour Europe solo...

. Damba and other Bamana (and Maninka) musicians in cities like Bamako
Bamako
Bamako is the capital of Mali and its largest city with a population of 1.8 million . Currently, it is estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa and sixth fastest in the world...

 are known throughout the country for a style of guitar music called bajourou (named after an 18th century song glorifying ancient king Tutu Jara). Bamana djembe ("djembe" is a French approximation of the Maninka word, with correct English phonetic approximation: jenbe) drumming has become popular since the mid-1990s throughout the world. It is a traditional instrument of the Bamana people from Mali (This is incorrect, the instrument is a Maninka/Maraka instrument adopted by the Bamana).

Mandinka


The Mandinka live in Mali, The Gambia and Senegal and their music is influenced by their neighbors, especially the Wolof
Wolof people
The Wolof are an ethnic group found in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.In Senegal, the Wolof form an ethnic plurality with about 43.3% of the population are Wolofs...

 and Jola, two of the largest ethnic groups in the Senegambian region. The kora
Kora (instrument)
The kora is a 21-string bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa.-Description:A kora is built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, and has a notched bridge. It does not fit well into any one category of western instruments and would have to be...

 is the most popular instrument.

Jeliya (Griots)


The jeli
Griot
A griot or jeli is a West African storyteller. The griot delivers history as a poet, praise singer, and wandering musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards...

w
(sing. jeli, fem. jelimusow, French griot) are a caste
Caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

 of professional musicians and orators, sponsored by noble patrons of the horon class and part of the same caste as craftsmen (nyamakala) like blacksmith
Blacksmith
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut...

s Kante, Soumaoro, Fane, Doumbia... Because the jeli class is endogamous, surname
Surname
A surname is a name added to a given name and is part of a personal name. In many cases, a surname is a family name. Many dictionaries define "surname" as a synonym of "family name"...

s are caste-based; thus, certain names are held only by jeliw. Common jeli surnames include Kouyaté, Kamissoko, Sissokho, Soumano, Diabaté and Koné.

Jeliw are supported by their noble sponsors. Their job is complex. They recount genealogical
Genealogy
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members...

 information and family events. They also laud the deeds of their patron's ancestors and praise their patrons themselves, as well as exhort them to behave morally to ensure the honour of the family name. They also act as dispute mediators. The position is highly respected, and jeliw are often trusted by their patrons with privileged information because the caste system does not allow the jeliw to rival the nobleman.

Few non-jeliw have taken music as a profession, though Salif Keita
Salif Keita
Salif Keïta is an internationally recognized afro-pop singer-songwriter from Mali. He is unique not only because of his reputation as the Golden Voice of Africa, but because he has albinism and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita...

 remains an extremely prominent example of a noble-born Malian who became a singer, adopting traditional garb and styles. He has, however, argued that he sings as an artist, in order to personally express himself, and not as a jeli; however, when he sings the praises of people using a jeli style, the true jeliw argue that he is treading on their territory.

The jeli repertoire includes several ancient songs; the oldest may be "Lambang", which praises music. Other songs praise ancient kings and heroes, especially Sunjata Keita ("Sunjata") and Tutu Jara ("Tut Jara"). Music is typically accompanied by a full dance band, often using electric instruments in recent years. Song
Song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

s are composed of a scripted refrain (donkili) and an improvised section. Improvised lyrics praise ancestors, and are usually based around a surname. Each surname has an epithet
Epithet
An epithet or byname is a descriptive term accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, objects, and binomial nomenclature. It is also a descriptive title...

 used to glorify its ancient holders, and singers also praise recent and still-living family members. Proverb
Proverb
A proverb is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim...

s are another major component of traditional songs.

The political and historical aspects of the jeli's task fall largely, but not exclusively, within the male jeli's realm, as does the playing of most instruments. The only instrument played by jelimusow traditionally was the karinya, though now some have taken up playing drums, kora, and even ngoni.

Traditional instruments


The kora
Kora (instrument)
The kora is a 21-string bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa.-Description:A kora is built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, and has a notched bridge. It does not fit well into any one category of western instruments and would have to be...

 is by far the most popular traditional instrument. It is similar to both a harp
Harp
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones and has its own sub category . All harps have a neck, resonator and strings...

 and a lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

 and can have between 21 and 25 strings. Ngoni
Xalam
Xalam, also spelled khalam, is the Wolof name for a traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa. The xalam is thought to have originated from modern-day Mali, but some believe that, in antiquity, the instrument may have originated from ancient Egypt...

 (lutes) and balafon
Balafon
The balafon is a resonated frame, wooden keyed percussion idiophone of West Africa; part of the idiophone family of tuned percussion instruments that includes the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone...

 (xylophones) are also common.

The kora is believed to have come from what is now Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west....

, and is known to have existed by 1796, when Mungo Park
Mungo Park (explorer)
Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer of the African continent. He was credited as being the first Westerner to encounter the Niger River.-Early life:...

, a Scottish explorer, reported seeing one. There are two styles of playing the kora. The western style is found mostly in Senegal and The Gambia, and is more rhythmically complex than the eastern tradition. The best known player of the western style is Gambian Jaliba Kuyateh. Eastern kora-playing is more vocally dominated, and is found throughout Mali and Guinea. Respected players of the kora include Sidiki Diabaté
Sidiki Diabaté
Sidiki Diabaté is a Malian Kora player known throughout West Africa as "the King of the Kora." He is regarded as one of the greatest kora players of all times and is the father of kora player Toumani Diabaté....

, Toumani Diabaté
Toumani Diabaté
Toumani Diabaté is a Malian kora player. In addition to performing the traditional music of Mali, he has also been involved in cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues, jazz, and other international styles.-Biography:...

, Djeli Moussa Sissoko and Batourou Sekou Kouyaté.

The ngoni is known to have existed since 1352, when Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

, a Moroccan
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 traveller reported seeing one in the court of Mansa Musa
Mansa Musa
Musa I , commonly referred to as Mansa Musa, was the tenth mansa, which translates as "king of kings" or "emperor", of the Malian Empire...

. It is believed to have evolved into the banjo
Banjo
In the 1830s Sweeney became the first white man to play the banjo on stage. His version of the instrument replaced the gourd with a drum-like sound box and included four full-length strings alongside a short fifth-string. There is no proof, however, that Sweeney invented either innovation. This new...

 in North America after Mande slaves were exported there en masse. Battuta also reported the existence of a balafon, which is a complex xylophone popular especially among the Susu
Susu people
The Soso are a major Mande ethnic group living primarily in Guinea. Smaller communities are also located in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Senegal and Mali. The Susu are descendants of the thirteenth century Mali Empire...

 of western Guinea.

Mande percussion instruments include the tama, djembe
Djembe
A djembe also known as jembe, jenbe, djbobimbe, jymbe, yembe, or jimbay, or sanbanyi in Susu; is a skin-covered drum meant played with bare hands....

 and dunun
Dunun
A Dunun is the generic name for a family of West African bass drums that developed alongside the djembe in the Mande drum ensemble...

 drums.

Popular music


After World War 2
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 the guitar
Guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 become common throughout Africa, partially resulting from the mixing of African, American and British soldiers. Dance bands were popular in Mali, especially the town of Kita
Kita, Mali
Kita is a town and commune in western Mali. It lies on the eastern slope of Mount Kita , known for its caves and rock paintings. Today, the city is known for its music, its annual Roman Catholic pilgrimage and its role as a processing center for the surrounding cotton- and peanut-growing region...

's orchestra led by Boureima Keita and Afro-Jazz de S´gou. Imported dances were popular, especially rumba
Rumba (dance)
Rumba is a dance term with two quite different meanings.In some contexts, "rumba" is used as shorthand for Afro-Cuban rumba, a group of dances related to the rumba genre of Afro-Cuban music. The most common Afro-Cuban rumba is the guaguancó...

s, waltz
Waltz
The waltz is a ballroom and folk dance in time, performed primarily in closed position.- History :There are several references to a sliding or gliding dance,- a waltz, from the 16th century including the representations of the printer H.S. Beheim...

es and Argentine
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

-derived tango
Tango (dance)
Tango dance originated in the area of the Rio de la Plata , and spread to the rest of the world soon after....

s. By the 1960s, however, the influence of Cuban music
Music of Cuba
The Caribbean island of Cuba has developed a wide range of creolized musical styles, based on its cultural origins in Europe and Africa. Since the 19th century its music has been hugely popular and influential throughout the world...

 began to rise.

Post-independence


After independence in 1960, Malians saw new opportunities for cultural expression in radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 and recordings. Under President Modibo Keita
Modibo Keïta
Modibo Keita ; was the first President of Mali and the Prime Minister of the Mali Federation. He espoused a form of African socialism.-Youth:...

, orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

s were state-supported, including the first electric dance band, Orchestre Nationale A, as well as the Ensemble Instrumental National, comprising 40 traditional musicians from around the country and still in operation today. Other influential dance bands included Rail Band
Rail Band
The Rail Band, formed in 1970, is one of the most popular groups in the history of Malian music; it was later known as Super Rail Band, Bamako Rail Band or, most comprehensively and formally, Super Rail Band of the Buffet Hotel de la Gare, Bamako...

 and Pioneer Jazz
Pioneer Jazz
Pioneer Jazz was a Malian band from the 1960s, one of the most popular of the era. The band emerged from the city of Bamako after Modibo Keita, the Malian leader, began subsidizing musical groups as long as they used indigenous praise song, and the kora and balafon musical instruments, in their...

. Cuban music remained popular in Mali throughout the 1960s, and remains popular today. Annual arts festivals were also held in the capital, Bamako.

Roots revival


Mali's second president, Moussa Traoré
Moussa Traoré
General Moussa Traoré is a Malian soldier and politician. As a Lieutenant, he led the military ouster of President Modibo Keïta in 1968. Thereafter he served as Head of State from 1968-1979, and President of Mali from 1979 to 1991, when he was overthrown by popular protests and military coup...

, discouraged Cuban music in favor of Malian traditional music. The annual arts festivals were held biannually and were known as the Biennales. Old dance bands reformed under new names, as part of this roots revival
Roots revival
A roots revival is a trend which includes young performers popularizing the traditional musical styles of their ancestors. Often, roots revivals include an addition of newly-composed songs with socially and politically aware lyrics, as well as a general modernization of the folk sound.After an...

. Especially influential bands included Tidiane Koné's Rail Band du Buffet Hôtel de la Gare, which launched the careers of future stars Salif Keita
Salif Keita
Salif Keïta is an internationally recognized afro-pop singer-songwriter from Mali. He is unique not only because of his reputation as the Golden Voice of Africa, but because he has albinism and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita...

 and Mory Kanté
Mory Kanté
Mory Kanté is a vocalist and player of the kora harp. He was born into one of Guinea's best known families of griot musicians...

, and Super Biton de Ségou.

Bajourou


Bajourou music also became popular, beginning with Fanta Sacko
Fanta Sacko
Fanta Sacko is a Malian musician, whose debut, self-titled LP launched the bajourou music genre. She has helped establish a female singing tradition in Mali, which makes that country unique in West Africa, where female popular musicians are not generally approved of.-References:...

's Fanta Sacko, the first bajourou LP. Fanta Sacko's success set the stage for future jelimusow stars which have been consistently popular in Mali; the mainstream acceptance of female singers is unusual in West Africa, and marks Malian music as unique.

Mid-70s diversification


Not all bands took part in Traoré's roots revival. Les Ambassadeurs du Motel formed in 1971, playing popular songs imported from Senegal, Cuba and France. Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band were the two biggest bands in the country, and a fierce rivalry developed. Salif Keita, perhaps the most popular singer of the time, defected in 1972 to Les Ambassadeurs. This was followed by a major concert at which both bands performed as part of the Kibaru (literacy
Literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

) program. The audience fell into a frenzy of excitement and unity, and the concert is still remembered as one of the defining moments in 1970s Malian music.

The mid-70s also saw the formation of National Badema, a band that played Cuban music and soon added Kasse Mady Diabaté, who led a movement to incorporate Maninka praise-singing into Cuban-style music.

In 1975, Fanta Damba
Fanta Damba
Fanta Damba is a Malian jalimuso known to her fans as La Grand Vedette Malienne. She began singing as a child, growing up in a family of musicians. She began recording in her early twenties with Radio Mali. In 1975, she became the first jalimuso to tour Europe solo...

 became the first jelimuso to tour Europe, as bajourou continued to become mainstream throughout Mali.

Exodus


Both the Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs left for Abidjan
Abidjan
Abidjan is the economic and former official capital of Côte d'Ivoire, while the current capital is Yamoussoukro. it was the largest city in the nation and the third-largest French-speaking city in the world, after Paris, and Kinshasa but before Montreal...

 at the end of the 1970s due to a poor economic climate in Mali. There, Les Ambassadeurs recorded Mandjou, an album which featured their most popular song, "Mandjou". The song helped make Salif Keita a solo star. Many of the biggest musicians of the period also emigrated—to Abidjan, Dakar
Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

, Paris (Salif Keita, Mory Kanté), London, New York or Chicago. Their recordings remained widely available, however, and these exiles helped to bring international attention to Mande music.

1980s


Internationally, Malian popular music has been known more for its male artists. Domestically, Malian music has been completely dominated by female singers such as Kandia Kouyaté
Kandia Kouyaté
Kandia Kouyaté is a Malian jelimuso and kora player; she has earned the prestigious title of ngara, and is sometimes appellated La dangereuse and La grande vedette malienne...

 since at least the 1980s. Their music is ubiquitous on radio and television and at markets and street-corner stalls. Fans follow them for the moralizing nature of their lyrics, the perception that they embody tradition and their role as fashion trend-setters.

Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band continued recording and performing under a variety of names. In 1982, Salif Keita, who had spent time recording with Les Ambassadeurs' Kanté Manfila, left the band and recorded an influential fusion album, Soro, with Ibrahima Sylla and French keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel
Jean-Philippe Rykiel
Jean-Philippe Rykiel is a French composer, arranger & musician, primarily a keyboard player. He has been blind since his birth in 1961, and is the son of fashion designer Sonia Rykiel.-Career:...

. The album revolutionized Malian pop, eliminating all Cuban traces and incorporating influences from rock and pop. By the middle of the decade, Paris had become the new capital of Mande dance music. Mory Kanté saw major mainstream success with techno-influenced Mande music, becoming a #1 hit on several European charts.

In addition the Keita's modernization and the numerous artists who followed in his wake, another roots revival
Roots revival
A roots revival is a trend which includes young performers popularizing the traditional musical styles of their ancestors. Often, roots revivals include an addition of newly-composed songs with socially and politically aware lyrics, as well as a general modernization of the folk sound.After an...

 began in the mid-1980s. Guinean singer and kora player Jali Musa Jawara's 1983 Yasimika
Yasimika
Yasimika is the first studio album by Djeli Moussa Diawara , Guinean Kora player , released in 1983.-Background:Djeli Moussa Diawara recorded his first LP, now known as Yasimika, in Abidjan in 1982...

is said to have begun this trend, followed by a series of acoustic releases from Kanté Manfila and Kasse Mady.

Ali Farka Touré
Ali Farka Touré
Ali Ibrahim “Farka” Touré was a Malian singer and guitarist, and one of the African continent’s most internationally renowned musicians. His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues...

 also gained international popularity during this period; his music is less in the jeli tradition and resembles American blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

.

Wassoulou


At the end of the 1980s, public support for the Malian government declined and praise-singing, with its assumption of support for the status quo and for political leaders, became unfashionable. The region of Wassoulou
Wassoulou
Wassoulou is an historic region in southwest Mali, northeast Guinea and the area west of the Sankarani river and south of the Niger River in Mali and Côte d'Ivoire...

, south of Bamako, became the center for a new wave of danceable music also referred to as wassoulou
Wassoulou music
Wassoulou is a genre of West African popular music, named after the region of Wassoulou. It is performed mostly by women, using lyrics that address women's issues regarding childbearing, fertility and polygamy...

.

Wassoulou had been developing since at least the mid-70s. Jeliw had never played a large part in the music scene there, and music was more democratic. The modern form of wassoulou is a combination of hunter's songs with sogoninkun, a type of elaborate masked dance, and the music is largely based on the kamalengoni harp invented in the late 1950s by Allata Brulaye Sidibí. Most singers are women. Oumou Sangaré
Oumou Sangaré
Oumou Sangare is a Malian Wassoulou musician, sometimes referred to as "The Songbird of Wassoulou." Wassoulou is a historic region south of the Niger River, and the music there is descended from traditional hunting songs, and is accompanied by a calabash...

 was the first major wassoulou star; she achieved fame suddenly in 1989 with the release of Moussoulou, both within Mali and internationally.

1990s to present


Since the 1990s, although the majority of Malian popular singers are still jelimusow, wassoulou's popularity has continued to grow. Wassoulou music is especially popular among youth. Although western audiences categorise wassoulou performers like Oumou Sangaré as feminists
Feminism
Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women. Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights...

 for criticizing practices like polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 and arranged marriage
Arranged marriage
An arranged marriage is a practice in which someone other than the couple getting married makes the selection of the persons to be wed, meanwhile curtailing or avoiding the process of courtship. Such marriages had deep roots in royal and aristocratic families around the world...

, within Mali they are not viewed in that light because their messages, when they do not support the status quo of gender role
Gender role
Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...

s, are subtly expressed and ambiguously worded, thus keeping them open to a variety of interpretations and avoiding direct censure from Malian society. Vieux Farka Toure
Vieux Farka Touré
Boureima "Vieux" Farka Touré is a Malian singer and guitarist. He is the son of Grammy-winning Malian musician Ali Farka Touré.-Biography:Touré was born in Niafunké, Mali in 1981 to Ali Farka Touré...

, son of Ali Farka Toure
Ali Farka Touré
Ali Ibrahim “Farka” Touré was a Malian singer and guitarist, and one of the African continent’s most internationally renowned musicians. His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues...

, has gained popularity after playing in front of an estimated 1 billion viewers worldwide at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. He has also been called, "the Hendrix of the Sahara".

Tuareg music


Tinariwen
Tinariwen
Tinariwen is a band of Tuareg-Berber musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed around 1979 in refugee camps in Libya but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s...

is thought to be the first Tuareg electric band, active since 1982. They played at the Eden project stage of the Live8 concert in July 2005.

See also

Audio clips: Traditional music of Mali. Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève. Accessed November 25, 2010.