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The National Instrumental Ensemble and Choir of Guinea

in collaboration with Reutlingen Philharmonic Germany

Manding Grooves is facilitating a collaboration between the Ensemble Instrumental in Conakry, Guinea and a German national orchestra. We are working with KulturKontackte in Berlin to organise this year-long cross-cultural project which will culminate in performances in both Guinea and Germany. We are applying for funding from the Kulturstiftung Bundes, the Goethe Institute, and are seeking supplemental support.

The Griot Academy

Imagine a musical and cultural center in Guinea, West Africa, a place to teach and learn the art of the griots, an ancient profession that has been indispensable in West African culture for 800 years. 

Guinea, December 2022 with Sekouba Kandia Kouyaté, Famoro Dioubaté, Aliya Camara and Lisa Feder

The Griot Academy will be a school in which professional and budding musicians worldwide as well as other cultural tourists would visit, study, and sustain, financially.  It would simultaneously serve as a school where young Guineans would learn, collaborate, innovate, and propagate what is fast becoming the “global art” of griots.

 

The late, great Mory Kante promoted the idea for a Griot Academy, and was willing to donate some land in Guinea for the project. 

Griots are musicians, but they are also oral historians, and peace-keepers in their society who use their music and words to direct society toward the common good. They are now live in Paris, New York, and London and collaborating with Western musicians such as Piers Faccini and Damon Ahlborn. Griots are trained from a young age through an indigenous educational system. Starting at 7, griots learn self and community awareness, humility, courage, concentration, listening skills, diplomacy, qualities that are not necessarily instilled in our own educational system. Meanwhile, many Westerns, including professional musicians are collaborating with griot musicians in droves.

There’s an attraction in the Western countries to collaborate with griots.

However, it is alarming is that the source of griot culture in Guinea is starting to disintegrate in the face of the global economy and the lack of resources in Africa. There is great potential for social entrepreneurship here. Manding Grooves is seeking mentorship, partnership, investment to bring this project to fruition. Please contact Lisa Feder for more information at lisa@lisafeder.com

Yere Foli
 

BANI
KAIRA
KEME BOUREMA
KOKOBA
NANFULE

Yere Foli ("My Playing/Voice") is a current, continuously updated audio/video archive anthologizing the music of Mande griots and their collaborators in the New York Metropolitan area, especially balafon player Famoro Dioubaté. As a long-term recording project, it aims to provide an engaging and accessible resource for listeners, musicians, teachers, and students of African music. Between 2018-2020, ethnomusicologist David Racanelli rehearsed with Famoro on a weekly basis, traveling to his Harlem apartment to learn the guitar and bass parts for his music. Some songs, including “Keme Bourema,” “Kaira,” and “Nanfulen,” are shared with other griots with whom David has collaborated since 2005 while others, such as “Keke,” are specific to Famoro's own personal repertoire. In many ways, this project is a direct extension of Tom van Buren’s CD compilation Badenya: Manden Jaliya in New York City (2002) that marked the culmination of his extensive collaborative research on the Mande community and its musicians in Harlem and the Bronx between 1997 and 2001. Using Famoro’s own words, the title of the project denotes one’s instrumental playing (foli) as a human extension or “voice,” a recurring feature of the Mande music making process/approach, which David has embraced for nearly two decades.

This project includes American musicians who have been learning and playing Manding music for many years with Famoro Dioubate. Directed by David Racanelli, it includes Andy Algire, balafonist and drummer, Sean Dixon, bassist, drummer, sound engineer, and Mamadou Bah, Senegalese bassist, all of whom play in the band, Kakande.  On the right, listen to their first  five tracks.

In-The-Air 

The In-The-Air project connects griot musicians of great talent to the most influential songs, and perhaps the artists that made them, of European/American culture. Re-making famous songs with an African touch in several languages gives the griots the potential to be recognised on a larger scale, and to launch their own musical careers in the global economy, a bit like, well, Peter Gabriel and Youssou N'Dour in the 1980s. In this project, the songs we choose have a message that corresponds cross-culturally, that raises awareness to our shared humanity.

Famoro Dioubaté played balafon on a re-make of Peter Gabriel's, "Don't Break this Rhythm". Click on the box to listen, or click on the record to buy it for $1.

Manding Grooves Logo
Youssou N'Dour and Peter Gabriel
Don't Break This RhythmFeat. Famoro Dioubate
00:00 / 04:01

Jelis at the Crossroads

Named after her book, Jeliya at the Crossroads (Palgrave Press 2021), Lisa Feder's independent research project continues to explore how jelis (or griots) are integrating into Europe, the United States, and the global arena at large. A portion of this research will be aired on AfroPop Worldwide radio program in the Fall of 2022. This work features interviews and music of griots born in West Africa and launching careers in Europe and the United States.

 

We address: How is jeli music changing as the musicians appeal to global audiences? Are they in control of the changes? How are they surviving and thriving, economically? What difficulties do they face in living abroad? What are their hopes and aspirations for themselves and future of their profession? 

Kanazoe Diabate and Stephane Joubert

Stephane Joubert and Kanazoé Diabaté
Paris, February 2020.

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