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Guinean traditional percussion orchestra

Transferred from an older blog: Original post date by Alpha (Administrator) in 2003


In Guinea, singing, playing music ,and dancing, is a part of everyday life. Percussion rhythms and songs are played by hunters, Jelis, and blacksmiths for specific occasions, and each rhythm has a specific meaning. Guinean rhythms (piece of music) are played all over Guinea, by Malinke, Soussou, Baga, Fula ethnic groups, and more.. Most percussive rhythms played in the modern orchestra, have typical dancing steps associated to them, together with sophisticated dancing choreography and multiple songs related to the rhythm. In a traditional environment, the percussion orchestra is meant to play for dancers which are really the highlight of the celebration / gathering. The following are some basics to play like in a Guinean traditional percussion orchestra. A basic Guinean traditional percussion orchestra is usually composed of 1 to 3 Double-sided drum players (Doundoufola), a few Djembe drum players for accompaniment (Djembedefola), and one Djembe soloist (Djembebafola). In the extended orchestra version, other musical instruments are also used, mainly the Bala, the Kora, the Bolon, the Fula flute, the Krin, and various shakers.



Each double sided drum (Doundoun) is usually played horizontally with one wooden stick (Kalama), and with a Bell (Kenke) attached to the drum. The bell is stroke with a nail or a metallic ring (Kourou) put around the finger, while the other hand simultaneously play one side of the drum with the stick. The Doundoumba drum is the biggest - with a deep low pitch sound The Sangbeni is the average sized one - with an average pitch sound The Kenkeni is the smallest one - with a higher pitch sound. Double-sided drums are played with a stick as a combination of open and closed notes. Closed note (muffled sound) are achieved by leaving the stick on the drum skin, which stops the skin vibrations, providing a different sound from the open note.