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“Fakoli”

Audio
Fakoli

New York’s Manden community has grown significantly over the past twenty years. Today it includes members of the Wolof, Fulani, and Mandinka cultural groups from Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, and Cote d’Ivoire. A number of itinerant musicians known as jalilu or griots have settled in the Bronx and upper Manhattan. In traditional West African culture, jalilu are bards who sing lengthy epic songs that often recount history and praise ancestors. The kora, a 21-stringed harp-lute, and the bala, a West African gourd xylophone, commonly accompany the jali’s singing. In New York, jalilu play for family ceremonies and often officiate at community events. “Fakoli” comes from the oldest repertoire of songs about the founding of the Empire of Mali by King Sundiata Keita in A.D. 1325. Fakoli, a military leader, formed an alliance with Sundiata and together, they vanquished their common enemies through cunning and magic. His story emphasizes his skill and seemingly supernatural powers. Often sung to memorialize accomplishments of the past, this song metaphorically serves to praise able leaders and other doers of good deeds. The traditional kora and bala accompaniment is given a contemporary edge through the addition of guitar and electric bass. Singer, guitarist, and percussionist Abdoulaye Diabete was born into a musical family of jalilu in 1956 in Kela, Mali. He learned the jail repertoire from his father and began performing professionally. In the mid 1970s, he moved to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, where he formed the first Super Manden band and began experimenting with the fusion of traditional and modern African styles. In 1995, he moved to New York City, where his new incarnation of Super Manden now performs at Malian, Guinean, and Ivoirienne community events.

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