Four hypnotic field recordings made by Charles Duvelle in Niger for the Ocora label. Exact year unknown. 320 vinyl rip and hi-res scans by yours truly. Enjoy.Liner notes, elegantly translated by Julie S:
“Overseas Broadcasting Collection
The Rhythms & Songs of Niger
Does the music of Niger constitute a sufficiently homogenious whole that we can speak of one music rather than several?
In fact, if five major ethnicities (Hausa, Djerma, Sonrai, Peaul, Tuareg) exist, do the particularities of expression, form and instruments allow us to recognize common characteristics? In Hausa country, music is essentially produced by specialists commonly refered to as “griots”. They are in part traditional griots, repositories of group history, attached to a traditional chief, and belonging to a caste; the others, the “circumstantial griots”, the disabled, blind, homeless, who sometimes attach themselves to a professional group (butchers, warriors). The “alghaita” oboe, the “kakaki” trumpet (which is used only in certain circumstances), the “gangua” and “kozo” drums, the “kalanghou” armpit drum, gourd rattles, and the “godie” single-stringed viol are the traditional griots’ instruments. The “circumstantial” griots use the “komca”, 2-stringed lute, as well as other instuments borrowed from the traditional griots, notably the “godie”.
Among the Sonrai and Djerma, one finds much the same instruments, the “dondon” armpit drum, the “godie” single-stringed viol, the “kountigui” single-stringed lute, and the 4-stringed “molo”, with the complete exclusion of the oboe and trumpet. Traditional songs performed by a female chorus, the “goumbe”, a recently imported musical form much favored by the young people, has been added to the griots’ professional repertoire.
Among the Peul, besides the “hoddou” 4-stringed lute and the single stringed viol that accompanies the griots, one finds the typical “seredou” shepard’s flute.
The Tuareg have a music which separates itself from those of the preceding ethnicities. In fact, although griots exist as among the Djerma, Hausa, and Peul, music is not their exclusive domain. During festivities, men and women sing to the rhythms of the “tende” drum. In the tent, women often play the “imzad” violin to amuse themselves while men play the “tassinsikh” flute.
The musics of Niger, despite the specific character of each, still present a certain unity. In fact, the predominence of professional music, essentially homophonic, the rarity of collective musical forms of expression, the presence of types of instruments such as the viol and lute are the common characteristics of the the five major ethnicites.
Sound recordings produced in Niger, by CH. Duvelle
1.Sonrai Praise Song
This is a song recorded at Ayerou which was composed and performed by a fifteen year old young man Doulo Soumahilou.
The young singer is accompanied by Ibrahima Douma, a kountigui player (a single-stringed lute) and by the handclaps of six young people.
Throughout the song, are the praises of friends, respectable persons of Ayerou:
Let’s sing, let’s sing together,
For Mamman, father of Zarou
For Daoudou Yaro, brother of Bouli
For Sangou, brother of Sipto,
For Thiadial, sister of Kailou.
Let’s sing for Issa, brother of Bombom
For Issa, from the village of Gourati.
Let’s sing for Yacouba, brother of the Haji,
Father of Zarou
For the brother of Manou, the lion.
Let’s sing for Ganda,
The lion of the village of Firgoun
Father of Sadou, brother of Habarou.
Let’s sing for Boureima, father of Gambi
the most precious gold, who no one can help but love.
Let’s sing for Aria, brother of Bori,
Father of Seifou and Zodou.
Let’s sing for Sangou, brother of Lathi and Lakoure,
For Lobeli, sister of Kailou.
Let’s sing for Soumana the elephant,
Brother of Morban and Halarou.
Let’s sing for Midou,
Brother of Boussoure and Alia.
Brother of Salmon,
Father of Hamidou and Hiliassou,
For Souko, sister of Kaidou.
Let’s sing for Boureima,
The kountigui player.
For Garba, brother of Sounna.
Let’s sing for Abouda,
Brother of Lathi, Gambi and Souko,
For Diogo, from the village of Firgoun,
Brother of Bouba.
II. Sonrai Farmer’s Song
This song was recorded near Ayerou.
A farmer, N’Garin, recites partly the genealogies of the great farming families, and partly the praises of those who have been generous to him:
Men who live on this earth, listen to me!
God is great, Mohammed is his prophet.
Bangana Cisse Boureima, son of Tonda Diallei,
Of Saouda Diallei, of Bokar Diallei, of Zindokoy Diallei,
Of Fouddo Diallei, of Baban Diallei, of Londo Sorvy,
Of Sory Bangana, be careful!
He who is generous to the griots,
He who thinks of the past as well as the present,
He who is like the bark that protects the tree,
That is Lorogei (some words in Tamachek)
Diallo Morogei, is the beetle in the big trees,
Is the worm in the big trees,
He is pure like the newborn child,
Like a cow in paradise,
He is the bird of the big ravines,
The goat of the big ravines,
You and your wife, I thank you.
Diallo, all men must die one day,
Tel Haoua Manzo, Ami Moussa, Doula Moussa,
Sidi Garba Hamma, Atak Hamma, Asebi Hamma, Bouboucar Hamma,
But you, you are the grass than neither the horse nor the goat can graze on.
And you, Mahaman Sadje, son of Kalkoue Sadje, Hamine Sadje,
Boundiami Sadje, Ticambour Sadje, Gaoula Sadje, Gaolakeine Sadje,
Yes, you are the “sadje” that no beast can eat, neither horses or cattle.
(play on words: “sadje” in Djema means undergrowth).
The distribution of this traditional music, which was originally only played in the presence of chiefs, has expanded, and now it’s a very popular music in Hausa country.
Oumarou Kaka, the singer who accompanies himself on “godie”, was recorded in Massalata, a small village in Niger.
The “godie” is a one-stringed viol, an accompanying instrument often encountered in West Africa.
In chanting the praises of the inhabitants of Massalata shows us the remarkable possibilities of his instrument.
The griots (musicians, flatterers, composers and singers) are also often the repositories of local history.
These are people who, in West African societies, have a social position comparable to that of the blacksmiths.
The constitute a caste, which is both scorned and respected because, if their profession is not noble in the eyes of society, the knowledge they possess about the history of families gives them great power.
“Tehri”, the song heard here, was recorded near Ayerou (Niger); it is performed by griots who are also smiths. During the day they work with metal and at night they sing.
It is Ibrahim Agaya who accompanies himself on “Teharden”, a three-stringed lute, to the rhythm of his companions’ handclaps.”