Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guinea-Bissau's Super Mama Djambo [band] (information & song examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about the Guinea-Bissau band, Super Mama Djambo and the Mama Djambo spirit which the band is named after. This post also showcases five songs that are performed by Super Mama Djambo.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Super Mama Djambo for their musical legacy. Thanks alsot to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

"Consumer Guide Reviews:
Super Mama Djombo [Cobiana, 2003]
"From tiny Guinea-Bissau--formerly Portuguese Guinea, wedged between Senegal and Guinea proper, independent since 1974, population well under a million then and well over a million now--came a band that lasted a decade, even played one of Fidel's Havana youth conferences, but recorded only once, leaving six hours of master tape in Lisbon in 1980. Where the music of nearby Cabo Verde is dominated by mestizo variants on Portuguese fado, Guinea-Bissau had few white settlers, and if Super Mama Djombo recall anyone as they mix and match across West Africa, it's early Orchestra Baobab, hold the salsa. Soukous and highlife echo in the guitars, and the notes suggest that these songs in many languages--six tribal tongues in addition to the urban Kriol they favored--needed to be sung. Take for instance the title of the post-independence "Dissan Na M'bera," which means, the notes say, "'Let me walk on the side of the road'--don't run me over with a state car. A-"
Super Mama Djombo

"[Super Mama Djombo is]"One of the great West African electric roots bands of the 70's and early 80's. With five interlocking electric guitars and several-part vocal harmonies, this fifteen-person orchestra blazes through fresh interpretations of traditional rhythms."
"Super Mama Djombo represented the 1st cultural identity visibility for this small country [of Guinea-Bissau].

Independence was won in 1974, and that year brought the final formative elements to the band: freedom, euphoria, and bandleader Atchutchi... The band would become politically charged. It would imagine a new, unified national identity that was neither Portuguese nor divided by indigenous ethnicity. It would help re-invent Kriol, the synthesis of Portuguese and African languages spoken in the cities, that the revolution had transformed into a common language of national unity. (SMD cd liner notes)"
According to Super Mama Djambo's facebook page, the type of music that this band performed/performed is "Gumbe"; Afro-Latin.
Here's information about Gumbe music from indicates that Gumbe music is "a style of music from Guinea-Bissau, the term 'Gumbe' likely comes from Gombey music from the Bermuda, and the Jamaican square maroon drum called goombay could also be related to the namee of this music genre." In addition, that Wikipedia page indicates that "Gumbe is mostly influenced by the fast tempo zouk style (music of the French Caribbean popularized by Kassav in the 1980's); though the same term also refers to any music of the country. True gumbe is a fusion of several Bissauan folk traditions."
Additional informaton about Super Mama Djambo is included in the summary statement of the video given below as Example #5.

The only information that I've been able to find online about Mama Djambo [spirit] are brief mentions of that spirit that are included in articles about the Super Mama Djambo band. Here's that information with citations:
"Mama Djombo is in the local pantheon a female spirit with strong powers, called upon by the guerrilla hiding in the forests to protect the liberation movement. A name, a symbol that let alone represented an ideal for independence and decolonializaion of which the orchestra became spokesman. Mama Djombo became soon the orchestra representing the government of Cabral, which accompanied them in their travels around the Portuguese speaking Africa, playing in Cape Verde, in Mozambique, Angola and also in Europe."

"Zé Manel was born in Bissau, the capital city, on May 22, 1957. At age six, he formed a band to play music at boy scout camp. Soon the band was playing weddings, baptisms and birthday parties, and its members took their craft so seriously that some were forced to leave. By age seven, young Zé, playing drums and acoustic guitar, had become the main attraction of this band, named Super Mama Djombo after the female spirit of a sacred offering place". When Guinea-Bissau won its independence from Portugal years later, Orchestra Mama Djombo became a primary vehicle expressing the new national identity...
I added italics to highlight that sentence.

"Mama Djombo is the name of a spirit that many fighters appealed to for protection during Guinea-Bissau's War of Independence."

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting dates on YouTube, with the oldest dated examples presented first.

Example #1: Super Mama Djombo - No Cambanca

Ólafur Páll Geirsson, Uploaded on Aug 1, 2009
Super Mama Djombo playing their song No Cambanca on Icelandic TV.

Example #2: Super Mama Djombo - Djan Djan

Ólafur Páll Geirsson Uploaded on Aug 2, 2009

Example #3: Super Mama Djombo (Guinea Bissau) - Pamparida (Original) (Vintage 70's Gumbe!!!)

Waldo Waldins, Published on Sep 8, 2012

Example #4: AFH241 - Super Mama Djombo

Afrikafestival Hertme Published on Jan 25, 2014

Late 70's Gumbe from Guinea Bissau!
Vocals: Malam, Baba, N'Tchoba, Dulce, Herculano, Lamine
Lead Guitar: João Mota
Rhythm Guitar: Cesário Miguel
Bass: Chico Caruka
Drums: Zè Manel
Percussion: Armando, Jaozinho

Example #5:AFH246 - Super Mama Djombo

Afrikafestival Hertme, Published on Jan 25, 2014

[Editor's Note: This video and the video given as Example #4 in this post includes a summary statement that quotes]
"Super Mama Djombo is a band from Guinea Bissau who sing in Guinea-Bissau Creole. The band was formed in the mid-1960s, at a Boy Scout camp, when the members were only children (the youngest was six years old). Mama Djombo is the name of a spirit that many fighters appealed to for protection during Guinea-Bissau's War of Independence.

In 1974, the politically conscious band leader Adriano Atchutchi joined. The group became immensely popular in the young country, which had gained its independence the same year. They would often play at President Luís Cabral's public speeches, and their concerts were broadcast live on radio.

In 1978 group traveled to Cuba and appeared on the eleventh youth music festival in Havana.[citation needed] Early in 1980, they went to Lisbon and recorded six hours of material. The first album Na cambança was released the same year, and the song Pamparida, which was based on a children's song, became a huge hit throughout West Africa. In 1980 Cabral was overthrown, and the new regime under João Bernardo Vieira no longer supported the band. They had fewer opportunities to perform, and broke up in 1986.[2] However, the soundtrack to Flora Gomes' film Udju Azul di Yonta (The blue eyes of Yonta) (1993) was recorded by Adriano Atchutchi and other members of the original band under the name of Super Mama Djombo.
In 2012, Super Mama Djombo toured Europe...The band said they hoped the tour would "show people that Guinea-Bissau's loudest sound is not that of gunfire, but that of music."

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. When I first read about the Guinea-Bissau spirit Mama Djambo I wondered if there was or is any connection between that spirit and the Malinke (Mandingo) spirit that is the source of the English term "mumbo jumbo".

    Here are definitions of "mumbo jumbo" from free dictionary:
    "1. meaningless incantation or ritual.

    2. senseless or pretentious language, usu. designed to obscure or confuse.

    3. an object of superstitious awe or reverence.

    [1738; first used in reference to a masked figure among the Malinke of West Africa]"
    Here's a quote from that term's Wikipedia page:
    "Origins and usage
    The phrase probably originated from the Mandingo name Maamajomboo, a masked dancer that took part in religious ceremonies. Mungo Park's travel journal, Travels in the Interior of Africa (1795) describes 'Mumbo Jumbo' as a character, complete with "masquerade habit", that Mandinka males would dress up in order to resolve domestic disputes.[1] In the 18th century mumbo jumbo referred to a West African god…

    The phrase appears in Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes published in 1873. 'A cracked edifice was a species of Mumbo Jumbo'.

    First published in 1899, The Story of Little Black Sambo has a titular protagonist whose parents are named "Black Mumbo" and "Black Jumbo".[2]

    In 1972, Ishmael Reed wrote a postmodern novel titled Mumbo Jumbo which addresses a wide array of influences on African diaspora and culture including historical realities like the Scramble for Africa and Atlantic slave trade as well as its invented influences like the "Jes Grew" virus. The novel includes an etymology taken from the first edition of the American Heritage Dictionary that derives the phrase Mumbo Jumbo from the Mandingo mā-mā-gyo-mbō, meaning a "magician who makes the troubled spirits of ancestors go away." [3] [4] While the novel quotes this dictionary entry and includes a lengthy bibliography, the work is largely fictional and regularly blurs the line between fact and fiction. The title can also be interpreted to refer to the notion that postmodern works like Mumbo Jumbo are often dismissed as nonsensical."...
    There are additional examples of the use of this phrase in this article.

    Since there is no mention of any connection between "Mambo Djambo" and the Malinke masquerade "Maamajomboo", perhaps this is just an example of words sounding similar but having different meanings.

    That said, I wonder if the Guinea-Bissau "Mama Djambo" is related to other African and African diaspora "mama" spirits or goddes such as Mama Wati.