Monday, November 15, 2010

Mamane Barka in Deal + "Late November" jams

Mamane Barka at the Astor Community Theatre, Deal, Saturday November 13th.

MB is an ethnomusicologist from Northern Niger (the desert part) whose research led him to be initiated by the last master of the biram, an extraordinary-looking 5-stringed harp played by the Boudouma fishermen on the shores of Lake Chad. He's been working and touring with a master percussionist called Omar (just "Omar", it seems) who played a couple of douma stick drums and a couple of talking drums (one under his arm, one on his knee, controlled by his big toe!). They've added a few new pieces of their own to the traditional, sacred 13-song biram repertoire. This combination of biram and drums is also a modern Nigerien (yes, that's the correct word!) trans-ethnic fusion, as the harp would usually just be accompanied by the voice of its player.

Mamane Barka
Mamane Barka and his biram — photo by Eric van Nieuwland

We were treated to two sets of fantastically hypnotic music, supplemented by Mamane explaining about the musical culture of Niger and the history of the instrument. He's got the only functioning biram in the world (his now-deceased master's has ended up in the national museum) and is the only initiated master. The youth of southern Niger aren't interested, so he's had to transcend the limits of tradition and take the instrument into the world of WOMAD festivals, CD recordings and YouTube clips. But at least it won't be lost forever.

And on top of this, we got a wonderful support set from Liam Magill (Syd Arthur). No loops (apart from a little electric guitar intro thing) and no flutes this time, just acoustic guitar and voice. A lot of songs I'd not heard too...he's obviously been very busy writing and practicing. The Deal crowd seemed to really like his stuff, too.

* * *

I was meant to go back to the Syd Arthur rehearsal space in Boughton that night to jam with the Late November collective, but everyone decided that it would be too late, so it had got pushed back to the next day. I stayed in Deal (at Will and Natasha's) and then got a lift out the next afternoon with James, Ollie and Jemma. Despite some major logistical challenges (broken down cars, lost purses, cars stuck in mud, almost forgotten sazzes) we got there in the end and some excellent music got played. This involved brothers David and James from Cocos Lovers, their friends Lawrence, Phillipe, Marcus, Stef and Jamil from Kingston upon Thames (where they lived prior to moving down to Deal), Ollie MC'ing, and me.

Phillipe — drum kit
James — drum kit (+ hand percussion, electric guitar, bass)
David — electric guitar, bass
Lawrence — hand percussion
Ollie — MC'ing
Jamil — bass (+ guitar, drums, percussion)
Marcus — alto sax
Stef — some bass, percussion
me — saz

Listen Here

This was supposedly in preparation for gig in Deal on 27th with Tom McInerney and the Ladies of the Lake (Nicola, Natasha and Mary-Anne from Cocos), but very little structured discussion went on, so we may have to meet up once more (I have no problem with that!)


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