Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Well, after more than four years of Soli Soma -- four years of playing djembe music from Guinea, West Africa out of our base of Hartford, Connecticut; four years of trying our best to play these traditional rhythms faithfully; four years of rehearsing and playing gigs around Connecticut and Massachusetts -- we've now got a CD and a place where you can read about us on line.

This comes at a crucial time for us, just as Paul Assegai BabaOni'Lu, the musical director and guiding spirit of the group heads off to China to teach English and study Tai Chi.

Here's a sample from the disc, which is called Foundations. This is "Dunungbe/Konowulen," from the dounounba family of rhythms, commonly known as "the dance of the strong men."

Traditional djembe music is complex and polyrhythmic, with many elaborate call-and-response calls and breaks. And the music and rhythms, and dances and songs that go with it, play an important role in traditional village life in Guinea. In the same way that we recognize the appropriate occasions at which the melodies for "The Wedding March," "Happy Birthday" or "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" are played. Certain rhythms, songs and dances correspond to specific events. There are rhythms for harvest time, rhythms for rites of passage and rhythms for competition. Through studying books, recordings and videos of master drummers like Mamady Keita and Famoudou Konate or the musicians from Les Ballets Africains and Percussions De Guinee, we've done our best to understand the particular origin of the music we play.

The djembe has a crisp and sharp sound.
If you're unfamiliar with the djembe, in the last 15 years it's become one of the most popular handdrums in the world. The goblet-shaped drum comes from the Mande, or Maninka or Malinke people of West Africa, primarily from the countries of Guinea and Mali. The drums are carved from a single piece of wood and covered by a goatskin head afixed to the drum using a system of iron hoops and laces. Unlike the majority of African drums, which are played with one or two sticks, the djembe is played with both bare hands.


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