LISTEN Sinanon Saran & Manden Mandinkadenou
Mande Djeli Kan is Kasse Mady Diabate’s new album just recently released. This is the first big musical event of 2009 into which we have bumped into, and it is with enormous joy and fondness that we present it to those who will be able to appreciate.
Today Kasse Mady Diabate incorporates more than anyone else the ancient cultural heritage of Kela, a village in the Koulikoro region. Kela together with Kita shares the supremacy of the mandengue jaliya. For this reason we will start talking about Kela and about a night spent around the fire, when without realizing we are transported into a world of sounds, gestures and words ancient and noble.
Djeli in Kela
LISTEN Kela Djeliya - Keme Burama (Wallai 001)
I thank God, creator of all.
An homage to whom gives us the strength to act,
To God I ask to be guided on the right path.
Now I will talk as jali,
Although I am not a good jali (makusa jali ala).
Good evening to the jali of Kela,
to those present and mostly to those missing.
Good evening to all whose blood runs in my veins,
because thanks to you I am what I am.
And it is thanks to you that the jaliya is respected.
The wellbeing that really counts starts within oneself,
but if you kill a big dog surely one day you will be bit by a smaller dog
(ndt: before talking it is good to thank God and the ancestors for what we are).
Jali of Kela who are here, good evening.
We all share the weight of jaliya”
Kela is the magical world of jali, a village of three hundred and sixty people a few kilometres from Kangaba, the ancient capital of the Malinke Empire, on the red dusty road that from Mali brings to Guinea. A bunch of gray huts made of clay with the roof made of straw, a few hundred meters from the big river Niger, that is here called Joliba meaning river of blood.
In European languages the word jali is translated into french griot, he who shouts, a suggestion that comes from the powerful singing of the jali. But the real meaning of jali has nothing to do with the singing. Jali is the same word of joli within Djoliba and it means blood, within which the oral tradition runs, the tradition of ancient secrets, of a big civilization that is passed on from father to son. For this reason Amadou Hampaté Bah said that a jali who dies is like a library burning down.
Kasse Mady Diabate & Amara Diabate
Kasse Mady Diabate was born in Kela, son of Jali Moussa Diabate and Djontan Kouyate, his voice they say, is the same of his uncle’s Bintou Fama Diabate. “Bintou Fama’s death coincided with my birth, for this reason we can say I came to replace him”. Within the malinkes, Bintou Fama, just like her daughter Siramori, were considered great gnará, the highest within the jali’s, and it is narrated that those who have been honoured by such a name posses the power to make the listeners cry and fall down on the floor, and to break branches of big baobabs with the magic of their voice. Gnará were also Sory Kandia Kouyate from Guinea, Sidiki Diabate from Gambia, Bazoumana Sissoko from Segou and Kandia Kouyate from Kita, just to nominate those that are famous to us.
It happened in January, thanks to the deep friendship between Kristina and Kasse Mady that the whole of Kela was waiting for us. Upon our arrival in the village we have been greeted by the old men’s blessings and by the sound of the djembe. Kasse Mady, his brother Lafia, his daughter Awa and his nephew Amara, our friends Idrissa Mariko, Cheick Coulibaly and Robert from France were with us. That same night the jali of Kela have set up a sumu, music to celebrate someone. The whole village was dressed up and sat around the fire, and when over the sound of the guitars, of the ngoni, of the tama and of the karignan the jali began singing and claiming their stories, we all drowned into another dimension in the heart of the jaliya.
Kela: Mamadi, Lafia, Sidiki & Kuma Diabate
In the past Kela had an extraordinary reputation all over the mandengue land,
but today to talk about Kela does not make all that noise.
In the past Kela occupied an important role,
but today the jali of the time are disappearing.
The jali say: “what ever power you have, one day this will lay aside”.
The great jali of the past have disappeared.
Seghemadi Diabate, Balaba Diabate, Siramori Diabate, Sanghoi Jula di Touba (Sanghoi Jula Tubaka) were great,
but death kills people and their actions, and time cancels the past.
What I am talking about I have learnt from the oral tradition.
It is not death that is sad but separation deriving from it.
Today the land of Mandengue is no longer supported from the strength it once had.
Men, jali who are here with us, good evening.
Madi son of Jatena, descendent of the griots of Touba, good evening.
Here with us is the jeliya, which is respect.
In Kela the jaliya survived.
Old men, bless the young jali and pray for them”.
(Old men) - “May God give you the strength.”
(Amara) – “May God bless your mouth.
Jeli of Kela, if you fill your mouth with tobacco and if you stop speaking you have
betrayed your traditional task.
Kasse Mady believe me, the real jali are in Kela, even if some say Bamako is full if jali.
Here in Kela a lot of kings passed by and they never returned to thank and honour the sacred places.
Kasse Mady, you know the story of Bintu Fama, Bintu Sine and Fele Kabadjan.
But amongst all our ancestors the ones who deserve most respect are Balaba Diabate and Nassaya Mulu.
And I also want to thank – oh God! - the son of Banku, Mota Bamba, the crocodile who brings men on its back, may God maintain their last condition unmarked.
Those people have done nothing against the jaliya, they just made it great.
But I will stop here not to bore you”.
(Awa) - (She shouts to get the attention)
“Listen, we are talking about jaliya, inheritance of our ancestors.
We are not jali for interest, but because this is our inheritance.
Kaladawula Diabate, look at your people, numerous.
You, who descend from the blood of jali, good evening.
It is not easy to be a jali.
What is jaliya?
Since I was born in the jaliya of Kela, and believe me it is not long,
if a wedding would fall apart, a jeli from Kela was called to solve the outcome.
I remember as a child, I have seen all this.
When a conflict began wherever, the jali of Kela would go to stop it.
This is jaliya and nothing else.
Jaliya is a social function and not an occupation to earn money.
A wedding is not sweet without a jali from Kela,
fraternity can not be maintained without a jali of Kela
and the same applies for cohabitation.
It is here in Kela that you find jaliya and respect.
Today many describe themselves as jali without having been initiated,
although they are few who know what it really means to be a jali.
But in Kela jaliya has maintained its reputation high”.
Kela: djeliya scenes around the fire
Kasse Mady today represents in the world the ancient tradition of the jali of Kela, where he is loved and respected. They say about him that although he lives in Bamako, and despite his success, he has never forgotten his village, and also since he was born he never possessed money for himself, but no one carries on his shoulders the weight he does.
Despite his fame, Kasse Mady is a pure man, generous and kind as no one, to the extent of being considered naïve by those who consider themselves smart. But it is due to his integrity and kindness, because he does not make distinctions between who is important and who is not, because he sings for friendship and not for money and because he never talks badly about anyone, that he attracts everybody’s love, therefore much honour to his ingenuity. More than once we have seen him distribute money to the musicians who accompany him during the shows, and this is not very common amongst the jali. There is therefore no doubt that most of the money he earns from his albums will reach Kela, just like the money earned by Ali Farka Toure have changed Niafunke’s destiny.
people from Kela
Mande Djeli Kan is his new album and also his best album, a release of someone who has donated his life to music, to jaliya, to his people and to his land. In this album recorded in the Bogolan studio of Bamako in November 2007 and produced by Jean Lamoot and Cheick Tidiane Seck, play many great musicians of malinke music the koras of Toumani and of Mamadou Diabate, the guitar of Djelimady Tounkara, of Fantamady Kouyate and of the guinean Ousmane Kouyate, the n'goni of Moriba Koita and of Ganda Tounkara and the balafon of Lassana Diabate and of Lansine Kouyate. A hand full of songs that go from the malinke tradition to the bambara tradition to the mande-rock that remind us the best songs by Salif Keita.
Mande Djeli Kan is a work that all those who are moved by Kasse Mady’s voice were waiting for, for many years. Finally, an album that reflects the level of his art and the deepness of his knowledge. A really well played album and beautifully sang, that walks hand in hand together with master pieces of Malian music, like a Big String Theory of his brother Lafia Diabate, of Djelimady Tounkara and Bouba Sacko, and of Kita Kan by Kandia Kouyate, the divine gnará from Kita.
Kasse Mady Diabate
But there is no need for other words to describe the musical world of a great jali and master of word, there is the need to listen. Wallai.
Old men from Kela
Author: Kasse Mady Diabate
Title: Mande Djeli Kan
2. Kalou Man Kene
4. Allah Doundé
5. Kia Ko Djougou
6. Douga Djabira
9. Sinanon Saran
10. Manden Mandinkadenou
Author: Kela Djeliya
Label: Wallai Record
1. Keme Burama
DRAWINGS BY MAURIZIO RIBICHINI