Friday, May 11, 2012

Mendiani (Menjani, Manjani) Dance & Drum Rhythm

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Updated February 24, 2014]

This post provides information and seven video examples of the West African drum & dance rhythm "Mendiani" (also spelled "Menjani" & "Manjani").

"Mendiani" is a West African dance (Guinea, Mali) that is traditionally performed by young virgin girls. Some sources indicate that the Mendiani dance is associated with the female rites of passage including female genital circumcision (female genital mutilation). I am very much opposed to female genital circumcision while I'm very supportive of the performance of Mendiani dances and other traditional dances, songs, and masking traditions that are associated with female & male rites of passage. The Addendum to this post provides some information & links to articles about the health risks of female genital circumcision. That Addendum also provides a link to an article about the health risk of male circumcision when that surgical act is performed in certain traditional ways.

In the United States, "Manjani" (mahn-JAH-nee) is the name that is usually used for the "Mendiani" drum & dance. Performers and fans of traditional African drum & dance generally have a very favorable view of Manjani's drum rhythms & dance performances and Manjani is seen as a way of [re]connecting with African culture. It appears that few people here know about its traditional cultural context. If people in the USA knew about Manjani's traditional context, its association with female circumcision would probably be viewed with great disfavor.

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

The copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to the performers and musicians who performed in these videos, and to the authors of the excerpted text about this drum & dance rhythm. My thanks also to the videographers and uploaders of these featured videos.

Compiled by
"Each village has a Mendiani - that is a girl who has mastered the dance Mendiani. When she becomes older, she must find a young girl to replace her. She teaches the dance to this girl, at night, outside the village. During the Mendiani festival, the dancer dances alone in the village square, while a second girl (Lafe) with a rattle dances around her at a distance. The Mendiani rhythm may be played on numerous other occasions as well. (Famoudou Konate)

Dance by young virgin girls between the ages of seven and fourteen who are dressed in a special costume for this dance. The rhythm is one of rejoicing and welcome. (Mamady Keita / Nanakama notes)

This is the dance of the Mendiani. "Mendiani" is a title for virgin girls who are specially initiated into a secret society of dancers. The elder women of the society were former Mediani themselves. They watch the young girls dance and select one (or several) to train them in this special dance. The girls must not only be good dancers, but also fearless, for the must perform their dance moves on the shoulders and head of a man. The Mendiani wear a special costume to perform, which they are not allowed to wear after they have lost their virginity. They become elders in the society and train future generations in the dance. The training goes on in secret, from what I understand. The dance is no longer done. I assume that the secret societies have also faded out. This rhythm, however, is still extremely popular.(Mamady Keita, transcribed from workshop notes by Adam Rugo)

NAME OF RHYTHM: Mendiani (Mandiani, Mindiani, Manjani, Mandjani, Mandyani, Mandiany)
COUNTRY: Guinea (various sources)
Siguiri, Mandiana, Kouroussa and Kankan regions (Mamady Keita)
Upper Guinea (Kemoko Sano)
Kayes region of Mali (Tambours du Mali)

OTHER NAMES: In Guinea this rhythm is also called Denadon (Le Tambour Djembe)

Played to test the dancing skills of pre-initiated young girls. (Journey into Rhythm)

This rhythm is played mainly for young pubescent girls to celebrate good harvests. (Le Tambour Djembe)

A popular dance historically performed by young people after the harvest season. In contemporary times, Mandyani is performed for different occasions as marriages, naming ceremonies and rites of passage. (Djimo Kouyate)

Now recognized as a dance of celebration and often danced by men and women, this dance was originally called the dance of the panther. It was danced by young women as they returned home after their period of initiation. (Mark Sunkett CD liner notes)

A Malinke rhythm from Guinea. It is dance by young virgin children displaying their happiness at becoming adults in their society. This lively, joyful rhythm is also played at festive occasions, such as at harvest time when the dancers strut their stuff with many fancy steps, acrobatics and incredible grace. (Drum Call)

A celebration dance from the Malinke people performed at the time of the full moon. (Bamidele)

A dance for circumcision. The villagers sing to welcome the circumcised after their initiation time. (Drums of Goree)

Performed after Harvest in the Kayes region [of Mali] (Tambours Mali).

There is extensive information about Mandiani in Mark Sunkett's book"...

Video #1: Mendiani chez Famoudou Konate

Uploaded by archetypo on Feb 10, 2009

Performance of Mendiani by family members of Famoudou Konate - on djembe solos, Ibro Konate, Fode Konate & Billy Konate; dancers include several of Famoudou's daughters, nieces and wives.

Video #2: Ladji Kante Mendiani

Uploaded by mcclaytonsaf on Jul 9, 2009

Video #3: Mendiani à Koumana

uploaded by VILLAGEDEKOUMANA on Mar 21, 2009
Here's a comment written in Spanish from that video's viewer comment thread:
"Mendiani es el nombre de la danza previa a la ablación del clítoris de las niñas, es por eso que ellas son las protagonistas de la danza"....
- lachinchachonal01; 2011

Video #4: Mali "Mendiani" (Menjani) #6 African Djembe Drums, Dance and Chants

Uploaded by michaelpluznick on Jan 5, 2010

This is a new video of Mediani drum, dance and chants made in Bamako Mali West Africa. It sounds almost identical to Guinea (Guinee) style mendiani as well.

Dancers and singers (Ami Doumbia left and Malodone right) from the award winning Santogoola community center and local group in the Sabaliboogoo district of Bamako chant traditional songs and perform traditional based West African dance choreography in Bamako, Mali while accompanied by Aruna, Brulye, Siaka and Kaliefa, 4 different gerations of Mali drummers...

Video #5: Menjani

Uploaded by mandingjata on Nov 26, 2008

Video #6: Rakaba Bellet Children performing Manjani

Uploaded by Hakim Wilson on Mar 21, 2010

Rakaba Ballet in the studio performing a traditional west african dance called Manjani in October 23rd 2006. [based in Atlanta, Georgia]

Video #7: African Dance Manjani

Toni Marie, Published on Jan 13, 2013

This dance has ALOT of energy and that's what africa was all about with music and dance. Hope you enjoy! and SUBCRIBE!

"12.11.08 - What is FGM?
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the collective name given to a number of cultural practices that involve the partial or total cutting of female genitals. FGM can be performed as early as infancy and as late as age thirty. However, most commonly, girls experience FGM between four and twelve years of age. The origins of FGM remain unclear.

FGM is a Human Rights Violation
FGM violates a number of human rights of women and girls. Since FGM involves the removal of healthy sexual organs without medical necessity and is usually performed on adolescents and girls, often with harmful physical and psychological consequences, it violates the rights to non-discrimination, health, and bodily integrity. Although FGM is not undertaken with the intention of inflicting harm, its damaging physical, sexual, and psychological effects make it an act of violence against women and children. Finally, FGM sometimes threatens the lives"...

"While medical complications are generally rare for boys who experience foreskin circumcision especially in more developed countries, health consequences for all types of FGM are generally more severe for girls. Girls may experience severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, urinary track complications or infections, fever, wound infection, or septicemia as short-term consequences of female circumcision procedures. In the long-term, women may face urethra damage, incontinence, painful sexual intercourse, and/or sexual dysfunction. Infibulation (type III) is considered the worst offender for long-term consequences in the life of the woman, particularly if an infibulated woman attempts vaginal childbirth."

“Independent of how you may feel about male circumcision, it does not normally, or even more than very rarely, lead to long-term medical consequences. FGM nearly always does..."

** October 1995 "Female Circumcision Comes to America"

** The Gambia: Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC)
...."Founded in 1991, BAFFROW was established to carry out projects and research in the health and environment areas. It is aimed at community health promotion, along with changing many of the puberty rituals. It also focuses at providing alternate sources of income for excisors.

BAFFROW aims at 100 percent eradication of FGM/FGC while respecting the importance of the social and cultural traditions associated with the rites of passage to womanhood.""
Italics are added to highlight this statement as one I absolutely concur with.

[This article lists the health risks of male circumcision In South Africa]

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