Sunday, April 30, 2017

Seven Mamaya Videos & Book Excerpt: "African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective" (Quotes From The Chapter On Malinke Cultures' Mamaya Music & Dance Tradition)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on "Mamaya" traditions in Malinke cultures.

This post provides information about Malinke cultures, provides an excerpt from Ingrid Monson's book about "Mamaya" song, dance, and events.

This post also showcases seven YouTube examples of "Mamaya" song and dance events.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II provides a few additional excerpts from online articles about "Mamaya". Part II also showcases eight videos of more contemporary Mamaya social events.

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

Pancocojams visitors are encouraged to read this entire chapter and/or this entire book.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the creators of Mamaya music, dance, and cultural events.

Thanks Ingrid Monson for her research that is excerpted below, and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post. Thanks also to all those who are featured in these YouTube examples and thanks to the publishers of these examples.

"Malinke, also called Maninka, Mandinka, Mandingo, or Manding, a West African people occupying parts of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. They speak a Mandekan language of the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo family.

The Malinke are divided into numerous independent groups dominated by a hereditary nobility, a feature that distinguishes them from most of their more egalitarian neighbours. One group, the Kangaba, has one of the world’s most ancient dynasties; its rule has been virtually uninterrupted for 13 centuries. Beginning in the 7th century ad as the centre of a small state, Kangaba became the capital of the great Malinke empire known as Mali. This was the most powerful and most renowned of all the empires of the western Sudan, now memorialized in the name of the Republic of Mali."...

From African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective
edited by Ingrid Monson (Routledge, Mar 1, 2004)

Pancocojams Editor's Note: Malinke words and French words are given in this pancocojams post without their accent marks.

[Google book]

[page] 188
..."Not only have the words, melodies, and harmonies of Mamaya become widely known and appreciated, but the time and place that it represents is fondly remembered as yet one more instance of a local flowering of a broadly influential Mande expressive culture.

In the aftermath of the late-nineteenth century wars of the almami Samory Toure, followed by the French colonial rule in 1898, Kankan, the former capital of the kingdom of Bateh, emerged as the major cultural and political center in Upper Guinea (Kaba, 1973). The city became known for its entrepreneurial and erudite Muslim culture with a rich musical life to match ...When the generations born in the late 1910s and 1920s reached adulthood in the 1930s, they celebrated their artistic tastes and lifestyles in Mamaya, one of the most innovative and influential musical movements in the Maninnka world.

Played on xylophones (bala; balafo means "to play the bala) with a female chorus, and occasionally a bass drum (dundun), or Western drum set, Mamaya was an exquisite and joyful music and dance event- or ambiance as it is called in West African French - in which both young men and women participated in their finest clothes. Mamaya was created by a renowned Kankan composer and bala player, Sidi Djeli Djoubate, for his children's enjoyment. Although it primarily centered around Sidi Djeli's family, and more specifically associated with his sons Sidi Karammo, Sidi Mamadi, and Sidi Moussa, (and later Djanka Amo), whose bala trio was recorded in 1949 and 1952, Mamaya involved musicians from other Kankan musical lineages, including the Kouyate, Diawara, and Kante families.

The actual piece of music called Mamaya as distinguished from the whole event of the same name holds special place in the repertory of Maninnka musicians due to its unique character. An extended bala and vocal composition, the core of Mamaya is a long section of lyrics sung to a melody with few repetitions and many twists and turns. It is one of the most through-composed melodies in the repertory of jelis (called griots by the French), the Maninnka musical culture. Several bala based musical accompaniments can be played before and after this extended song.

Mamaya performances usually involved verse after verse of choral singing, set to other melodies and punctuated by bala solos, praising the Kankan notables of the day. The sum total of a Mamaya

[page] 189 includes portion of Mamaya lyrics]

[pages 190 -191 not given in this Google Book edition]

[page] 192
The word Mamaya has no clear meaning in the Maninnka language. It implies, however, a sense of collective excitement, joy, and refined pageantry cultivated in a prosperous urban environment . It also conjures up images of serious artistry in music and dance of a colonial era in which local African culture was celebrated with finesse and pride. A popular youth music grounded in Kankan’s traditions, Mamaya expresses the musical preferences of the younger generations as well as the cosmopolitan culture for which that city was first known in the first half of the twentieth century.... An inquiry into the cultural and historical background of Mamaya can provide insight into how Africans, specifically Maninnka of Upper Guinea have confronted and integrated diverse influences into their own unique cultural expressions in the mid-twentieth century, with continued strong reverberations through several generations into the next century.


[page] 196
....A key to understanding the importance of Mamaya during its time, as well as its ongoing status is appreciating the significance of age groups.


[page] 197
...age groups definitely define and bind generations together. In Kankan there are five sede and each has a name: dan diya ("End's happiness"), perhaps an allusion to the dictum that there is an end to everything; san diya ("Year's happiness"), hara makonon ("Expecting good tidings"), du diya (Town's happiness), and jamana diya ("Country's happiness"). Sede are initially based on the grouping of children born during the same epoch and membership lasts a lifetime. Males and females are grouped together under the same sede name, but they have their own group leaders. Every three or four years, new initiates enter into the next rotation of sede so that every fifteen or twenty years the sede names cycle around. The sede known as san diya groups together those born in the early 1920s. They were the first performers of Mamaya.

The time of the san diya generation born in the early 1920s was crucial in colonial Kankan. By that time European culture and values had filtered into the urban environment through travels, schooling, and contact with some members of the white community. Africans, however, did not adopt all the European cultural symbols they had observed. Rather, they reshaped those elements of European culture that they found attractive to fit their own lifestyles. The young men of san diya and other age groups admired such European musical instruments as the guitar and drum set, and such dances of the day as the tango, waltz, rumba, and bolero. They were eager to live their own lives, as every generation desires. But, rigid cultural mores and constraints prevented Kankan youth from introducing European-dance styles based on physical contact between male and female dancers into their beloved hometown. For Kankan, although a modern metropolis, was home to Cheikh Muhammad Cherif and other religious leaders who made it an abode of Maninnka rigorism and a city of strict adherence to Islamic codes of behavior. Early testimony is provided by the French traveler Rene Caillile (1968: 1: 269), who sojourned in Kankan in 1823: "Music and dancing are forbidden among Musulmans [Muslims], and consequently their amusements are far from equalling in frolic and gaiety those which prevail among the pagans"...

[page] 198

...Although dancing was permitted in Kankan with certain restrictions, it was genteel in style and did not take on the sometimes frenetic and violent nature of jembe based rhythms such as Dundunba...

The generational problems of the san diya and the dan diya youth of the 1930s and 1940s generations found a creative solution in Mamaya. They had to initiate an open theatrical forums to conform with their generational attitudes and preferences that would also be compatible with the culture of Kankan. A new artistic form had to be invented, composed, rehearsed, and performed in public. Mamaya expressed this harmony between the imperatives of renewal and respect for traditions.


page 199


A typical Mamaya performance involved three bala, a chorus of female singers standing behind them, and sometimes a dun dun (bass drum) or jass drum set player. Youth organized the performance to begin in the mid-afternoon. Grooups of the same age set (sede) would compete for the most elaborate and successful performance, and two Mamaya were often held the same day in Kabada and Timbo, the two largest sections in Kankan. The male members of the sede would wear white or azure damask caftans or boubous (robes), white socks, and open-backed shoes (babouches). They danced in front of the musicians a la ronde holding a staff or handkerchief in their hands. As the dancers would turn to face the musicians, their names would be sung. The length of the Mamaya core and extended lyrics, unusual in African musical tradition, derived from the need to recognize each dancer, his or her family, and specific quality. This implies that Mamaya belonged to the Maninnka tradition of praise song, but performed in a new style and a new context.


[page] 200
The closest historical model for Mamaya is probably the piece Lamban, which like Mamaya, is distinguished for the rest of the jeli's repertory in two ways. First, both Lamban and Mamaya have a specific dance associated with them. This occurs with very few jeli musical compositions, notably Janjon, which originated in the hunter's repertory. With some exceptions, traditional jeliya is for listening, not dancing. Secondary, neither Lamban nor Mamaya are dedicated to a particular patron or event of political significance, another rare

[page 201-202 aren't included in this Google book excerpt].

page 203


Transformation of the tradition has also included the use of instruments other than balas for Mamaya recordings. (See El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyate (1992) for bala recordings and Djeli Moussa Djawara [1988) for a recording using bala, guitar, and kora... Modern renditions of Mamaya often add other instruments, such as guitars, electric bass, keyboards, and brass, while reducing the role of the bala. Once again, whether this is a renewal or a corruption depends on one's vantage point and the creativity of the artist.


It [Mamaya] remains a symbol of musical innovation within the jeli's tradition, and of a Maninnka group's genius for creative renewal in musical expression."

[With the exception of the first video, these examples are given in chronological order based on their publishing date, with the oldest dated example given first.]

Excerpt #1: Ami Koïta – Mamaya

Ousmane Bakary Kaba Uploaded on Aug 27, 2010

un tube qui reste aussi célèbre qu'à la date de sa sortie. ici la diva Ami koïta rend hommage au Mali son pays. le clip a été tournée en Guinée avec une réalisation de JMJ
(Google translate from French to English)

A tube that remains as famous as when it was released. Here the diva Ami koïta pays tribute to Mali his country. The clip was shot in Guinea with a realization of WYD.

Excerpt #2: RTG conakry presente la Mamaya de Kankan 2005

Aladji Toure, Uploaded on Dec 16, 2006

La Mamaya 2005 a kankan presenté par la radio television guinéeenne organisé par Sede sandiaya 3 de kankan a suivre

[Google translate from French to English]

La Mamaya 2005 a kankan presented by the radio television guineaeenne organized by Sede sandiaya 3 of kankan to follow

Example #3: MAMAYA DE KANKAN 2008

Aladji Toure Uploaded on Jan 26, 2008

{Gooble translate from French to English]

The presents the biggest griots most popular has kankan for the cause of the mamaya follow well this film unique in the world

Except #4: Mamaya 2008 a kankan

Aladji Toure Uploaded on Mar 27, 2008

Example #5: Le MAMAYA de 30 MAI 2009 en Hollande

Djiguipromotions Uploaded on Dec 21, 2009

Djigui promotion presente

Le MAMAYA de 30 MAI 2009 en Hollande

Excerpt #6: Kankan Mamaya 2006

Aladji Toure, Uploaded on May 4, 2011 presente Mamaya 2006 avec Sede sandiya 3 a kankan

Voila la derniere version de la mamaya a kankan un orchestre de sididou anime la soirée

{Google translate from French to English)

Here is the last version of the mamaya a kankan an orchestra of sididou animates the evening


Seretoure Sekoukaba, Published on Mar 9, 2015
This is showcased in this post in part because of its historical photographs

This concludes Part I of this two part series about Mamaya.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. With all due respect, I've often wonder whether some African singing voices -such as Ami Koïta in the "Mamaya" video featured in this pancocojams post- are too high pitched for American aesthetic tastes.

    I also wonder if that high pitched singing style was influenced by Arabic cultures.

    Would anyone else care to share his or her thoughts about this?

    1. To be clearer, my describing that vocalist's sound (and perhaps other Malinke vocalist that sing like her) as "high pitched" is a matter of cultural conditioning - i.e. she (and maybe they) are conditioned to either sing that way and for people in her/their cultural to appreciate that sound. And it is also cultural conditioning for me (as an American, or perhaps as an African American and perhaps some other Americans) to "hear" her singing as being high pitched and not as aesthetically pleasing as lower pitched singing.