‘Sabani’ means ‘three’ in Bambara, and all of the tracks on Stern’s EP will be trio compositions – a stark departure from the multi- instrumental African/Indian/Global orchestrations she’s delivered as her sound evolved on recent albums ‘Sa Belle Belle Ba’, ‘Africa’, ‘Spirit in the Water’, ‘Alu Maye’ and others. Watch this clip of Stern recording ‘Sabani’ in Salif Keita’s Moffou Studio in Bamako: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgy KxVG8edQ
More about the musicians and the
evolution of the project – notes written by Leni Stern:
I have been playing the n’goni since i first came to Mali in 2006 to perform at The Festival in the Dsert. I met Bassekou Kouyate there, Mali’s most famous n’goni player. He and his whole family have been teaching me ever since. Last September we performed together at the presidential palace to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence. 50 years - 50 n’gonies. In the 50 n’goni orchestra, I sat next to the n’goni ba, the instrument of Basskou’s father, played by his bother Fousseni. I fell in love with it’s warm, soft sound. The n’goni ba is tuned to C, a forth below the jelly n’goni in F hat I had played so far. ‘Still Bleeding’ is the first song I composed on this instrument.
Haruna Samake was born in a small village near Bamako, the capital of Mali in West Africa. His father was the imam and all the villagers came to pray in his mosque, at least once a week. The camela n’goni is the instrument of the hunters. Most hunters in West Africa are also doctors. By observing the animals they track, they learn about the plants in the forest. They see an injured dear rub his leg against a particular tree and cut the bark to make bandages for people’s injuries, for example (penicillin is found in the bark of a tree). The wisdom of traditional African medicine is passed on through the hunters. They are also sorcerers, a belief that originated in their extraordinary courage. They faced a lion armed with only a spear, they caught poisonous snakes to milk the venom in their mouths and make heart medicine from it. Hunters spend days, even months in the forest, where it is believed the spirits live...and they learn from them. They communicate with the spirits with the help of cowrie shells or a blackboard with lines and spaces drawn in white flower. People speak about them in hushed voices. So it was highly inappropriate for the little son of the imam to sit in the large courtyard of their house and play with a small camela n’goni that he had carved himself out of a calebash half, a stick and some fishing line! The hunters however liked the little boy and started to teach him how to play the instrument and they gave him a real camela n’goni after a while. A famous Malian singer named Sidibe heard people talking about the imam’s little son that played the hunters harp and hired him to play in her band. That’s how Haruna came to Bamako and eventually joined Salif Keita’s band, where I met him. The camela n’goni is a pentatonic instrument that is most popular in Wassoulou music from the south of Mali. Haruna has taken the instrument far past its origin and can play any style of music on it, from the mandingue scales of segou and guinne, to the Congolese guitars to American blues.
MK Called Prince was born in Mopti, the city of the 3 rivers, the West African center of trading since hundreds of years. Mopti is located in the middle of the country, halfway between Bamako and Timbuktu. 4 of the
Malian ethnicities, the peul, the bamabara, the dogon and the bobos, meet in mopti. Prince knows all of their rhythms and dances. He is half peul, half bobo. The rhythm of this song comes from the bobo people. Prince plays it on the calabash. One day before the recording he took me on his mo-ped to the market and we bought a calabash. They are used for so many things in Africa, instruments like the kora and the camela n’goni, household purposes like salad bowls and water containers.....they often get decorated with cowrie shells and used as shakers in wassoulou music. Prince uses his upside down, like a bass drum when he plays with his fists and a rimshot when he play with his rings. He can actually sound like a whole drum set on a calabash. The man that cleaned and carved the calabash while we where waiting was a samake, like haruna. Prince said that you can trust a samake.