"It can be difficult to find n'goni music, so I have put together this selection of recordings of donso, kamale and djeli n'goni, together with brief comments about each recording. These albums are available online as downloads through itunes and I have included direct links to make them easier to find. If you like the recording please support the artists and purchase their work. I hope you enjoy them." Jeremy Cloake
The Palm Wine Ambassadors - Shady Cabal
In the tradition of cross-pollination that gave rise to Palm Wine music, The Palm Wine Ambassadors draw their musical inspiration from continents and archipelagos worldwide and bring it home, in this case to Byron Bay, Australia. This is their second album and was recently reviewed with high acclaim and given four stars by the Sydney Morning Herald. Track 6 features a custom made Resonance N'goni and there are several kora tracks. 'Plants get high' is my personal favourite from this recording and at only $7 for the whole album it is well worth the purchase. Well done fellas!
Abou Diarra - Koya
This is the latest release from n'goni legend Abou Diarra. This album is very well produced with a variety of n'goni playing styles and compositions. The kora virtouso Toumani Diabaté features of two of the tracks on this album including the popular love song djarabi. My personal favourite from this recording is the opening track Né Nana that has superb spacial composition and feel. Abou has several other albums so make sure you take the time to have a good listen to his work. He is a very talented n'gonifola, musician and composer.
Fra Fra Sound - Mali Jazz
If you like jazz with a strong African influence then this is another album to add to your collection. There are some interesting breaks and a variety of styles on this album with a good range of instruments typically found in jazz, plus a large variety of African instruments including Kora and Balaphon. The n'goni playing of Vieux Kanté also features on this album. It is a well produced recording with a definite appeal for lovers of world fusion music. My favourite track from this album is Sosomali.
Vieux Kanté - The Young Man's Harp
This is the highly anticipated new release from n'goni legend Vieux Kanté. Before his untimely death is 2005, Vieux had developed his own unique style of n'goni playing that featured a lot of harmonic notes. He was a blind man so this aspect no doubt had a large degree of influence within his style of playing and what he choose to play about. There is another album from Vieux called Sans Commentaire, which is also available on itunes. Both albums demonstrate his unique style. He was an amazing innovator and musician.
Mad Lenoir - Mama Afrika
If you like jazz with a strong African influence then this album is for you. There are some interesting breaks and styles of this album with a variety of instruments typically found in jazz, including a track featuring Moussa Diarra. The overall feel of this album is light and lively with a warmth typical of contemporary African music. It is a well produced recording with a definite appeal for lovers of world fusion music.
Sangaré Siriki - Bamanaya
This is a well recorded album and boasts a collection of very authentic donso n'goni patterns and chants, a lot of which you would hear in donso ceremonies today. There is another album from this artist available through itunes so make sure you have a listen to both albums. This particular album is my preferred recording, the vocals and mixed well in blanace with the n'goni. The track Bamba Djigui is my personal favourite as it has a hypnotic feel to it within the typical 'call and respond' style of donso chants. Watch out for the last track on this album!
Adama Coulibaly - Baba, Le Village
When a friend sent me a link to this album, it instantly become one of my favourites. The playing and singing is fantastic and is matched with excellent production which makes for all round great listening. Adama plays several donso patterns on this album, with a unique contemporary twist to them. Salif Keita also features on one of the tracks. Unfortunately the nature of the itunes store means it is not available in some countries as a download, however if you can find it I definitely recommend adding it to your collection! NB: Couloubally = Coulibaly.
Adamou Diallo - Donsoya
This is one of those albums that are hard to find, but well worth the search when you do. It has been well produced and as the title suggests, features some great donso playing. The overall quality of this recording is good, but as is often the case with donso recordings, the mix of the lead singer is quite loud in some places. The karagnan is soft and low in the mix, which some people prefer. My favourite track from this recording is the first piece, Soro sogo simbo. A great album to listen right through and to support with your purchase.
Sibiri Samake - Dambe Foli
As soon as I heard this album is instantly became one of my favourites. The recordings quality is excellent, with the n'goni clear and well balanced with the singing and karagnan. Sibiri Samake is a famous donso so as expected, the playing is especially good with some excellent improvisations that feature a lot of muting as is typical with donso styles, but also a lot of use of the harmonic technique, which is less common. If you like donso playing, definitely add this album to your collection, it is fantastic!
Mamadou and Vanessa - Wulajan
Around twenty five years ago, Mamadou Sidibé was one of the first people to expand the range of donso n'goni by adding extra strings, creating the popular kamale n'goni. This movement has meant the n'goni is now more accessible to others outside of the donso caste. The music of Mamadou and Vanessa is sometimes described as Mali blues and a lot of their music has that type of sound and feel. There are several albums by Mamadou and Vanessa and they are all well produced, with the n'goni mixed in the front of the composition. Their albums are great listening and make excellent additions to your world music collection.
Siaka Sidibé Ensemble, Sidikiba Keita - Hunter's harp music from Mali
If you like the dampened techniques common in donso n'goni playing styles, then you will definitely like this album. There is some great donso playing on this album and the supporting singers add a nice sense of place as they accompany certain songs and clap along for emphasis at some points. The n'goni comes through clear on the majority of tracks despite being tuned low and recorded with singing and percussion. Overall this album has successfully captured the peaks and lulls of donso arrangements and is another quality recording of authentic village music from Mali. Dundunin and An Tè Waa Dunya are my personal favourites from this recording.
Various Artists - Mali: Le chant de chasseurs (hunter's songs)
The great thing about some recordings is their ability to transport you to where the music comes from. Some of the tracks in this album have that sense of place. The titles of the tracks have been translated which helps with understanding the feel of this recording. There is a nice depth of field in this album that is partly created between the volume of lead singer and those responding to his chant and also some panning. The donso n'goni is bass rich and is played in the repetitive cycles typical of this style of n'goni music, creating a steady rolling trance feel. A great recording of village donso playing and an excellent album to support.
Adama Couloubally - N'goni fola
It is the simplicity of n'goni together with singing that makes this album one of my favourites. The n'goni playing is excellent and it has been recorded and produced very well, with dampened and harmonic techniques clearly audible. Adama plays both kamale and donso styles on this recording, which is great to hear from one track to the next. The tunings are different scales which adds variety to the album, whilst keeping the raw beauty of n'goni and singing. There is a great version of Djinna Musso on this album and together with Fantan are my favourite tracks from this recording. A definite must for your collection if you don't have it.
Alou Sinayogo - Volume 1
Another great recording of donso playing. This album is a pleasure to listen to, it is well mixed and the n'goni has been recorded well. There is some excellent playing on this album and it has instantly become one of my favourites after only listening once. As is common with donso recordings, watch out for the rifle samples of some of the tracks, they almost sound like a cannon in this recording! An interesting and rare feature of this donso recording is the guitar on the track Deli le yandoman yé. My personal favourties from this album are Ni maga kola and Souya ye ila. Definitely an album to purchase and add to your collection!
Sekouba Traoré - Volume 2
This is a great recording of the famous donso fola Sekouba Traoré. There are many recordings of Sekouba under the prolific Camara Productions label, so if you like this one be sure to listen to the rest. The majority of the recordings of Sekouba are quite long, some tracks being over twenty minutes in duration. They are excellent recordings to have if you are after authentic village donso n'goni playing. When listening make sure the volume is kept to a medium level as occasionally Sekouba's voice is much louder than the rest of the instruments.
Kokanko Sata - Kokanko Sata
This album features kamale n'goni together with balaphon, flute, djembe and other percussion. It is well produced with the n'goni high in the mix so it is clear even on tracks that feature a lot of other instruments. It is nice to hear a solo female singer together with the n'goni and this recording stands out for that reason. The n'goni playing is sometimes funky with a lot of dampened notes in the player's style. Overall this album has a nice steady groove that is easy and enjoyable to listen to. Available on itunes and well worth purchasing.
Paul Sidibé - Mon n'goni
This is a well produced album, the n'goni sounds clean and bright. This recording features a lot of other instruments including balaphon, djembe, flute and of course singing. All of the tracks have well balanced levels and the n'goni maintains prominence in the foreground of all of the recordings, despite some tracks featuring balaphon, flute and percussion. It's a great album and if you don't already own it, I suggest you purchase it.
Filifin, featuring N'gou Bagayoko - Siran
There is some funky n'goni playing on this album, together with guitar, some light percussion and singing. There are several tracks that are solo or duo n'goni which is nice if you want something that is just the sound of n'goni. The harmonic and dampened style n'goni techniques feature a lot in this album which makes for interesting listening and adds to the overall funky feel of this recording. Gotta love the album cover!
Bassekou Kouyaté & N'goni Ba - Segu Blue
In recent years Bassekou Kouyaté and N'goni Ba have risen to new heights of popularity in the world music scene, and for very good reason. This album features some very good djeli n'goni playing together with rich vocals and a large variety of other African musical instruments. There are several recordings available from this group and they are all well produced. A definite recommendation for your world music collection and a must to see perform live if you get the opportunity.
Andra Kouyaté & Seke Chi - Saro
This is another excellent quality recording of djeli n'goni together with a large variety of other musical instruments. This album features several guest artists that include Mamadou and Vanessa, Bassekou Kouyaté and a track with Haruna Samake on kamale n'goni. With sixteen tracks, there is good variety to this album.
Abdoulaye Traoré - Abdoulaye Traoré
This is one of my personal favourites. The donso playing on this album is great and overall the album is very well produced. One of the reasons I like this album so much is because it has an excellent balance between the volume on the n'goni, singing and the percussion, making it very easy to listen to and enjoy. Often I find the singing on donso recordings to be too loud at certain points, so it was nice to discover this album. Abdoulaye has a great voice and the singers who accompany him respond with a warmth and richness that adds a beautiful feel to this recording. Watch out for the rifle samples on some tracks!
John Ellis - Waking Dreams
This is a great recording if you are after relaxing n'goni music for a meditation, yoga or massage practise, or simply to unwind at the end of a long day. It has been composed and recorded specifically for those purposes. This is one of my nephews favourite recordings and he often listens to it to help him go to sleep. The tracks are long and develop well with the subtle introduction of shakers, xylophone and flutes. A great recording for your n'goni music collection.
Yeshe - Roots & Wings
Talented multi-instrumentalist and singer Yeshe brings together a variety of world musical instruments with this recording in a variety of styles. Together with n'goni, this album also features m'bira, djembe, bass, didjeridu and and several other instruments. As well as a large selection of sounds and styles, Yeshe has also brought together several guest musicians including guitarist Harry Manx. With uplifting lyrics and soulful grooves this album has appeal from many perspectives.
Namogodine - Carnaval De Brousse
This world fusion album features some great n'goni playing, with an excellent version of Sirabakele. Together with n'goni, this album brings together guitar, kora, accordian, flute and several other instruments. It captures a variety of styles from laidback grooves, soulful songs and as the title suggests, there are tracks with an upbeat carnaval feel. Make sure you check out their other album Car Naît de Voyages, which has a great version of the classic Burkina song Faso Denou. A great album and an excellent addition to your n'goni music collection.
Burkina Faso: Songs of Praise of The Senoufo Tagoua Hunting Fraternity
This is an good quality recording of donso playing from Burkina Faso. There is some great playing on this recording and as is common with these types of recordings, it provokes an clear sense of place, transporting the listener to the location. Overall the n'goni has been captured well and is clearly audible. My personal favourite piece from this recording is the track Nàma fàga tu. I highly reccommend adding this recording to your n'goni music collection, put on your headset, turn up the volume and be transported!