Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dundunba Dance -Traditional Purpose & Description Of The Traditional Attire Of Dundunba Dancers

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part III of a three part series on dundunba drum rhythms and dances. Part III provides information about traditional purpose of Dundunba and includes descriptions of the traditional attire for those dancers.

Click for Part I of this series.

Part I provides information about the dundunba drum and showcases nine videos of traditional performances* of dundunba rhythms and dances in Guinea, West Africa.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II provides additional information about dundunba and showcases seven videos of dundunba parties in Guinea and concert (on stage) performances of Guinean dundunba rhythms.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those featured in this video and thanks to the publisher of the video that is featured in this post. Thanks also to .

*From reading the excerpts found below and others, I'm aware that the Dundunba performances described in those passages and shown on video are partial reinactments of traditional dances. As such, these performances can't be said to be completely the actual ways that Dundunba was really danced. Furthermore, the attire described for these dancers might be different-in greater or lesser ways- from the actual attire of non-reinactment Dundunba dancers.

SHOWCASE VIDEO: Dunumba - Demosonikelen

guedom, Uploaded on Jun 6, 2007

Demosonikelen @ Fete de la Mare (Baro 2002)

Excerpt from "Djoliba Crossing: Journeys Into West African Music and Culture" Written and Illustrated by Dave Kobrenski (Publisher Artemisia Books, 2013)
From Google Books, pps 79-81
..."The drumming had begun. Upon arriving at the great courtyard, I could se the crowds were beginning to gather around the perimeter, and the dancers were beginning to make their way to the center: two lines of about eight men each, wearing the traditional attire of dundunba dancers, long loose fitting black trousers with white lines down the sides, colorful headbands, shirtless, showing off their strong physique. Each man carried in one hand a small adorned axe (called djende), in the other a long leather whip made from hippopotamus skin (called manin fasson. This fete was to be a Dundunba , an event that belonged to a family of about thirty rhythms and dances, aptly referred to as the “dance of the strong men”.

Here in the Hamana region, the men of the village each belong to a specific group based on age. These age groups comprise a complex social hierarchy, with each group having a leader and certain rights and duties in the village. In former times, I was told, the dundunba dances were carried out as a means of settling power conflicts among age groups: often a younger age group dissatisfied with what was perceived as lesser rights and freedoms in comparison to an older age group, would challenge the power of the other, hoping to supersede them in the village. The event would result in a day-long and sometimes bloody contest, witnessed by the whole village, which would end only when one age group submitted to the other, determining the winner-and bringing the conflict to a public and permanent close, ensuring that the village would not be plagued by incessant quarrelling. Today, the ongoing tradition of the dance continues to signify these social hierarchies between age groups, but it is now carried out in a playful but showy display of strength among the men, without real fighting. The event still last throughout the entire day, with only short pauses, and requires great stamina and fitness from the participants.

At one end of the bara across from the great baobab tree, the drummers were clustered together: at the center, the powerful dundunba drum- a large deep sounding barrel of a drum with thick cow skin on both ends and a iron bell attached to its frame- was used to pind out complex brass phrases, mostly in the off-beat here in the rhythm that was its namesake, the sangban drum, similar to the dundunba, but only slightly smaller, played the main melody, an intricate phrase around which the dundunba melody wound itself; the kenkini drum, the smaller of the three bass drums, played its characteristic off beat phrase that was the same for each of the thirty or so rhythms in the dundunba family. Three djembe players were present at the head of the group, playing with bare hands, goat-skinned stretched tightly over wooden shells, and alternating with each other in playing complimentary accompaniment parts with one soloist playing fast, precise phrases, simultaneously leading and responding to the movement of the dancers.

The dance had begun. Two lines of men, each single file with their leader in front, marched in opposite directions around the large perimeter of the courtyard, and only after a time the lines would converge again directly in front of the drummers, at which time, the “fight” would ensue: the drummers broke into the échauffement, a section of the music that heated both the rhythm and the dance, becoming faster and more intense. The dancers vigorously engaged each other, sweat dripping from them, released at last upon the drummers signal. The two groups of dancers broke apart from each other, following the perimeter of the courtyard once again, dust now rising into the scorched air. I watched the dance unfold from my place near the drummers, attempting to follow the complex polyrhythm patterns which were sometimes improvised, but never strayed far from the melodic theme.

Into the afternoon the dance went on, barely ceasing in its intensity, until finally the dance broke at the peak of the day’s heat, and the crowds dispersed- for a time."...
Information about "Djobila Crossings"'s author/illustrator
"Dave Kobrenski is a musician, artist, and performer with a background in illustration and graphic design. Between 2001 and 2008, Dave traveled extensively in West Africa to study music with master musicians such as Famoudou Konaté, Nansady Keita, Sayon Camara, and other musicians of the region. He studied the African flute with a master of the Malinké flute tradition, Lanciné Condé. Djoliba Crossing is his first book."
Click for comments about the book "Djobila Crossing" by participants in a forum of jembe drummers, with particular focus on the book review by djembefola.
"Djoliba or Joliba is the name of the Niger River in the Bamana language."- This information from the Wikipedia article about the Djoliba Athletic Club, a Malian [West Africa] football [soccer] club and one of the two biggest teams in Mali alongside the Stade Malien Malia". -
échauffement {French language]= overheating
[Extrapolating, I believe in music, échauffement is the phase of the music when the rhythm intensifies]
Additional Comments About The Traditional Attire* Of Dundunba Dancers:
Dave Kobrenski described the traditional attire of dundunba dancers as "long loose fitting black trousers with white lines down the sides, colorful headbands, shirtless, showing off their strong physique."

Those "long loose fitting black trousers" are the same as or very similar to "harem pants". Here's information about "harem pants" from
..."The original so-called 'harem pants/skirts' were introduced to Western fashion by Paul Poiret around 1910, although they themselves were inspired by Middle East styles, and by şalvar (Turkish trousers)... A version of harem pants popularized in the late 1980s by [American Rapper] M. C. Hammer[11] became known as Hammer pants."
-end of quote-
The head band that was traditionally worn by the dancers probably served the purpose of catching some of the men's sweat that was the result of such rigorous dancing in the heat.

"The word "dunumba" or "doundumba" describes a type of dance that is popular in Upper Guinea in the Kankan, Siguiri and Kourousa regions, but its roots are to be found in Hamanah, a canton of the prefecture of Kourousa. It is also called "the Dance of the Strong Men". The names of its various rhythms, of which there are a good twenty, are taken from their places of origin, from the names of the people they portray or to whom they are dedicated, from the characteristics of their structure or from the way the performers appear during the dance.

The "Dance of the Strong Men" as danced by the Malinke of Hamanah occupies a position that makes it more of a social ritual than an amusement, although this aspect is also not ignored. It takes place in the Bara, the space for dancing that every village possesses and which has a large tree, either a Kapok or Mangrove, planted in the center. The circles of men or boys are formed around the tree, each circle representing a social or age group (kare). The Baranti, the masters of the Bara form the group that assumes responsibility for the smooth running of the festivities. They are the first to dance, and no-one else can use the Bara without their agreement. Although the Dunumba is reserved for men as its name indicates, women could take part by dancing at one side or by coming to the centre to enliven the atmosphere."...
That article includes additional quotes from different sources about dundunba, and brief descriptions of various dundunba rhythms.

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