Hamana lies in the interior of Guinea (Upper Guinea) and extends east of the city of Kouroussa about 20 km along the river Niger and its tributary Niandan. The area is almost exclusively inhabited by the people of the Malinke.
In the social life of the Malinke people in this region festivals play in important role. On occations such as weddings, fieldwork, religious festivals and countless other occasions, the people use music, singing and dancing to strengthen the connections in between families, social classes and occupational groups as well as honouring important people or perform mask ceremonies.
The music is a really important part of it. It is played life and is directly related to the order of the events of the festival.
The Malinke know a few melody instruments and a variety of percussion instruments. The most importation ones are the “Djembé” and the “Dunduns” (Bassdrums).
The “melody” and the character of the rhythms are mainly defined by the dunduns. In the manner in which the bass patterns go together, the individual pieces can be distinguished.
The Dunduns are cylinder shaped drums covered with cow skin. They are played in a horizontal position with a stick. The Largest (Dundunba) and the medium sized (Sangban) also have a bell on top, which is played with a small metal rod or a ring. In the village the smallest bassdrum (Kensedeni or Kenkeni) is played without the bell.
The Djembé is a funnel-shaped drum covered with a goat skin. It is played with the hands and serves as a solo instrument. In some larger groups is also played as it accompanying instrument.
The Solist on the Djembé usually takes the lead of the musical process. He corresponds directly with the dancers and showes in corporation with the Sangban player when "changes", "Echaufements" (focus periods) or "exits" shall be played.
Apart from the often very complex rhythmic structures, Malinke music also has a sophisticated communication inbetween the different musicians and dancers.
From the outside it often appear to bee planned in advance. In fact, each piece is created differently during the interplay and is determined by musical signals, codes or by the behavior of the dancers.
Depending on the course of the festival and the moods of the ensemble or the participants of the festival, the same piece can be very differently every time it is played again.
As mentioned above, there are countless different festivals with countless different situations. A lot of them have specific rhythms just made for it. The drummers in the village provide the musical accompaniment to these festivals.
Accordingly, the music always has a function that influences its character.
The rhythm “Sofa” for example is made for the important man of the village, so they have a platform to show their importance and dignity. Other pieces allow the representatives of certain generations to present themselves.
There are rhythms to support the men while working on the field. Some provide the necessary mood for mysterious fetish rituals, some are supposed to give courage to the boys right before their initiation and others are just made for haveimg fun dancing.
It seems obvious, that the music, which is played at a religious ceremony, follows different rules than the one for weddings.
The rhythms are often supposed to transport a certain feeling (as for example pride for “sofa”).
Of course, not everyone has the privilege of having witnessed such festivals. So it is up to me to explain you how it works and take you on a "mental" trip to Hamana. So you can get a picture how it would look like. You going to see… it will influence your music.
Well… how do you learn this music? If you want to understand how a drummer in the villages learns his craft, you should know in which environment he grows up and how he’s trained. It is very likely that he was surrounded by music even before he was born. Eventually, if he's both talented and motivated and the social situation is right, he can accompany the musician in their work and at some point he will start to play the Kensedeni. With time he rises up in the hierarchy and comes to play the Dundunba, then the Sangban and perhaps he becomes even one of the soloists in his group.
“Unfortunately” we do not have the same conditions here. We are not confronted with this beautiful but tricky music since we were born. We did not play the Kensedeni for years in a ensemble of absolute cracks. Therefore the music can appear a little strange at the beginning. Besides, we are used to approach to music very mathematically and rather intellectualistic. However, this makes it difficult to really get to know Malinke music and learn to play it properly.
Nevertheless, we can still become good drummers!
After countless hours with various teachers from Africa and Europe, and through my own years of teaching, I have developed a method to introduce this music to people of our culture. So after a while you can not only play it - but experience, feel and understand it fully.