Friday, November 18, 2011

Four West African Female Singers

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases videos of & information about four female song traditions or female vocalists from various West African nations. This post is not meant to a comprehensive review of West African female vocalists.

These videos & comments are presented for their aesthetic, educational, historical, folkloric, sociological, and entertainment values. Videos are presented in random order with the nation of the singer/s' given in parenthesis after the video title.

The content of this post is given for folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Video #1: Nnwonkoro - A Female Song Tradition of the Akan of Ghana - Part 1 (Ghana)

Uploaded by africanbushdoctor on Feb 16, 2011

Here's an excerpt of the uploader's comment
"Nnwonkoro is a female song tradition of the Akan of Ghana. "Abre" which is the beginning where the lead singer recites a long text without instrumental accompaniment or hand claps, sets the stage in this excerpt of Nnwonkoro performed by Onyame Akwan Nnwonkoro. According to the research and many conversations that I have conducted over the years, Nnwonkoro is an important music on the highest of levels with a poetic depth that some say are unparalleled. Only females sing these songs with men playing the accompanying musical instruments. Both male and female may dance to it's music.

Now, a very brief background:
There are several female song traditions of the Akan.
Mmobomme songs were sang to Nyame (the supreme being) and the Abosum (deities)during war time, asking thus praying [asking their prayers] for the safe return from war of their men. Ose songs were sang when the men returned victorious from their battles. There are many other occasions in which women sing ose songs as they are songs of jubilation.

Nsaa Dwom songs of praise, were sang usually in the evening after a hard days work when some of the women gathered together. In the 1920's Mmobomme declined due to the fact that hostilities between the British and the Asante had reached an end (in 1905 Yaa Asantewaa was captured). Nnwonkoro was still primarily a recreational music with occasional use at funerals with Adowa at that time period being a primary music and dance form for funerary celebrations of Akan. Today it is one of the primary forms of music expression found in funerary celebrations and in other festivals in various Akan communities...

The primary instruments used in Nnwonkoro vary from group to group, some of the instruments used are; Apreprensua (a large finger piano that is sat on while being played), Afirikyewa (a finger bell), Dawuruta (a double bell - idiophone), Adawura (a boat shaped bell) Notorowa (gourd rattles), Atumpan (male and female principal talking drums of the Akan) Apentema drum, and Kwadum drum which was added by Manhyia Tete Nnwonkoro at the request of the Asantehene."

Video #2: Oumou Sangaré - Seya (Mali)

uploaded by maliwood223 on Feb 11, 2009

Editor: Here's a viewer comment about this song:
"Oluwaluvlee She is basically talking about how she make herself beautiful for her man, in her African dress..."
-konepkone; 2011

Here's some information about this vocalist:
"Oumou Sangare was born in Bamako, Mali in 1969... Oumou's mother was a singer and her main source of income was the ‘sumu’ (wedding and baptism celebrations organised by women) or 'street parties' as Oumou calls them...

Oumou's mother is from Wassoulou, the remote forest region in the south of Mali which boasts a rich and distinctive culture. For hundreds of years, until the beginning of the 20th century with French colonial rule, it was Mali’s Wassoulou hunters who were the protectors of the villages, the providers of food, and the healers. Still today they occupy a special place deep in the Malian psyche. Their music, played on a special six string harp, is believed to have magic powers that can protect hunters and tame even the most dangerous of animals. Wassoulou hunters’ music was very different from the prevailing griot-based music of the dance bands. It had strong, hypnotic dance rhythms and in contrast to the Mandé griots, whose lyrics focus more on the wealthy and the powerful, Wassoulou the lyrics talk about more general aspects of life. Oumou’s vision from the outset was to bring the power and charm of this music into her own songs...

In 1989, after some persuasion – wary of the pitfalls that could await her if the album was not successful -, she recorded her first album Moussoulou (‘Women’). It was recorded in Abidjan with arrangements by Ahmadou Ba Guindo and released on the 4th of January 1990, and it took West Africa by storm. She was 21 years old. Her songs talked openly about subjects that no one had dared express before in public in this fundamentally conservative society and caused endless debate amongst the Malian population. The album's messages were powerful - encouraging women to seek personal freedom to be themselves and have dignity, warning against the wrongs of polygamy and forced marriage and even covered the taboo subject of female sensuality, such as in her stunning hit song “Diaraby Nene” (the Shivers of Passion).

This was all the more remarkable because of her chosen idiom - a slightly modernized version of the traditional, rural music of the enigmatic and and mysterious Wassoulou hunters, delivered with a funk-driven pulse. The true impact of ‘Moussoulou’ is still hard to gauge."

Video #3: Sayon Camara - Asmaou* (Guinea)

Uploaded by liberte58 on Dec 24, 2007
I couldn't find any information online about Sayon Camara.

Asmaou is the first name of the woman in white in this video who is the vocalist sings to. I googled the name "Asmaou Conte" which was found in a comment in this video's viewer comment thread. As a result I found information for "Asmaou Bah Conte". She is the wife of (deceased) second President of Guinea, Lasana Conte. Unfortunately, that infornation was located on an anti-fraud website for scam emails. It's a shame that there's no other information about her, not even on Lasana Conte's Wikipedia page.

Video #4: Angelique Kidjo - AGOLO

Sergey Altay, Uploaded on Oct 27, 2010

From "Later...With Jools Holland (2005)"

"Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy Award–winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activist, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos...

Her musical influences include the Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel, and Latin styles...

Kidjo is fluent in Fon, French, Yorùbá, and English and sings in all four languages; she also has her own personal language which includes words that serve as song titles such as "Batonga". Malaika is a song sung in Swahili language. She often utilizes Benin's traditional Zilin vocal technique and jazz vocalese. She now resides in New York City, New York, United States."

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1 comment:

  1. I have no idea of West African female singers but I would to know about those celebrities. It is a great blog exploring much about these singers. I would like to hear the songs sung by them. Please share some CD’s of their singing songs.