Sunday, March 4, 2012

Music in Burkina Faso

Local Dance Troupe
When I left for Burkina Faso many of you assumed I would end up playing African music and bring back African instruments to play with Mud in Yer Eye when I returned. In my village, the only musical instruments seem to be rhythm instruments.  The first week I was here I was invited to a celebration of the success of an onion storage project.  A gardening group in my village had built a place to store and preserve onions until a time when there were not so many for sale by others.  They were telling other folks about how they did the project and how much more they were able to earn by waiting until there was less supply and more demand.  For entertainment they had a dance troupe with male musicians who sang and played drums. The men who danced held and shook a kind of instrument that seemed to represent the dabas with which you cultivate the ground. It consisted of two gourds that had pebbles or shells or something inside to make a rattling sound.
The women danced in a circle, bending at the waist and waving their heads and arms back and forth. This may have represented planting and harvesting, but I am not sure.

Wedding Dances

The next place I heard music and saw dancing was at the church after the wedding of the daughter of my homologue.  Here the women again danced in a circle, while a couple of women beat drums in the middle of the group and everyone sang to provide the music.

At the reception for this wedding, in my homologue's courtyard, the music was provided by improvised drums (the big blue barrel and the small blue jerry can) and a pot lid that made a sound a bit like a triangle or symbol.

Again, people danced in a circle, with lots of head, shoulder and hip shaking.  Everyone was singing some traditional song while the folks were dancing. The bride, in the purple dress, joined in the dance, although the groom was nowhere to be seen.

At another wedding this girl played the traditional rhythm instrument made of a gourd and shells.  Here she is holding it on her head to show off the design for me, but you play it by tossing it up in the air and the shells make a very loud noise when you catch it and the shells hit the gourd. Voices again provided the melody.



In Bobo we went to a nightclub hoping to hear some traditional music.  We did heard songs sung in the local language, but some of the instruments were modern ones, including a keyboard and electric guitars. 

You can see a modern drum set in the picture below, behind this guy playing the electronic keyboard, but this group was not using it.


 The rhythm was provided by a large gourd this guy played as a drum. He pounded it with his closed fists, or tapped on it with wood pieces attached to his fingers so he could make a variety of sounds.

We finally did find some traditional music, on New Year’s Eve, in Ouaga.  We had dinner and heard a band play traditional music using a balaphone, a gourd drum, some stringed instruments and flutes.  It looked like the man with the flute had a whole bag of them, like our harmonica players in Mud, one for each key that might be used. Here is a very brief snatch of the music.  It took 3 hours for me to upload it!

The best musical encounter, however, was at the music museum on Ouaga.  After Elizabeth and I took the half hour guided tour of the 15 or so drums and the balaphone played by a famous musician (no photos allowed), our guide asked if we would like to hear some live music. Here are the musicians who did the drumming.

For one number, this man played the balaphone. The balaphone would be a fun instrument to learn to play, but it would never work with western music.  It is tuned to a five tone scale.  The interesting thing about the tuning is that every note harmonizes with every other note, at least according to Wikipedia.

The woman in yellow danced to a couple of numbers and then invited us to dance. Elizabeth used my Flip camera and got a bit of me doing the traditional Moore “bump” dance with the woman.  I hope the videos plays smoothly for you. Here I can get only about 3 seconds at a time.

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