Audio albums

All of the audio albums below feature studio recordings of jembe music from Bamako; the last one also offers some live recordings. In the video section, the percentage of live recordings is higher.

 Dònkili – Call to Dance

These two 1995 recordings from Bamako feature two ensembles. Led by Sita Ye Jabate (vocals) and Jaraba Jakite (jembe), one ensemble focused on urban celebration music (song-dance-drumming) for  members of the ethnic groups of Bamana and Wasulunka. The other ensemble was led by Hawa Damba (vocals) and Yamadu Dunbia (jembe) and presented repertoires dedicated to ecstatic dance ceremonies in the context of spirit possession healing cults (Bamana: jina-tòn). The album was first published on CD in 1997 (Leiden/NL: Pan Records). You can download the liner notes here [pdf].

The Art of Jenbe Drumming: The Mali Tradition, Vol. 1

These 1995 recordings from Bamako feature duets of one jembe and one dundun drum. Three different lead drummers present their playing styles, namely, Jaraba Jakite, Yamadu Dunbia, and Jeli Madi Kuyate. The album was first published on CD in 1996 (Bandaloop Records) and then re-issued in 2006 (Bibiafrica Records). You can download the liner notes here [pdf].

You may download the complete transcriptions of all tracks on the album, with the introduction either in English [pdf] or in German [pdf] language. The transcriptions are in simple raster notation (conceptually similar to box notation) instead of Western staff notation.

The Art of Jembe Drumming: The Mali Tradition, Vol. 2

Like Volume 1, this album also presents duets of one jembe and one dundun drum. Again, it features three lead-jembe players: Jeli Madi Kuyate, Drissa Kone, and Jaraba Jakite. My long term research assistant Madu Jakite is on dundun (kònkònin), as in the other volumes of the "Mali Tradition" series. The recordings were made from 1995 through 2007. The album was published on CD in 2008 (Bibiafrica Records). Please download the liner notes [pdf] and the transcriptions in English [pdf] or in German[pdf].

The Art of Jembe Drumming: The Mali Tradition, Vol. 3

This is another album of duet recordings. It has not been officially and physically released before, but rather is a virtual album available on the web only. Since some members of the today global community of jembe players found inspiration in the first two volumes of the "The Art of Jembe Drumming - The Mali Tradition", I thought sharing some more recordings of the same repertoire and style might be appropriate.

The players on Vol. 3 are Isa Coulibaly (jembe) and Madu Jakite (dundun). I made the recordings in Kati (Mali) in 2012. Mix and master: Puma Hoberg.

Coulibaly is a respected professional drummer from the town of Kati, some 15km to the north of Bamako. He is a former student of Namori Keita from Mali; the audio samples that accompany my book (Polak 2004) contain some of Keita's playing (download zip). His improvisatory playing is quite creative, full of surprise and expressivity.

All tracks are of one "live" recording session. As was the case with Volumes 1 and 2, no rehearsal nor discussion preceded the playing. The jembe player started to play, and off they went. No track was repeated. The jembe-subpage in the video footage page documents the recording of one track ("Sunun"). More footage is on Vimeo and that other video-hosting platform whose name I forgot. The photos below show Jakite (dundun) and Coulibaly (jembe) during another recording session.

Bamakò Fòli

This album presents a selection of my earliest recordings from Bamako, made in August 1994. Tracks #1-6 feature live recordings of a local wedding celebration, where Sita Ye Jabate (vocals) and Jaraba Jakite (jembe) led the musicians' ensemble. Jeli Madi Kuyate plays a medley of three pieces in a solo performance (track #7). Woloso Yamadu "Bani" Dunbia delivers a set of duets (track #8-11). Finally, Brahima "Petit B. Samake" leads a trio with Jeli Madi on second jembe and Madu Jakite on dundun (tracks #12-13). The recordings first appeared on MC in 1995, as a demo to promote the later production of the Mali Tradition (Vol 1) and Dònkili CDs. I then reissued them on CD on the occasion of a tour of Germany in the year 2000, featuring Jaraba Jakite on lead jembe, Madu Jakite on kònkònin, and myself on second jembe. Read some details on the recordings (pdf).