Mamoutou Kone, jembefola à Bouaké

Jembes and electric pianos

In Ivory Coast, the evolution of the jembe continues. While guitarists had already been present for a long time in traditional bands, we have seen the advent of electric pianos in recent years. As these videos show, the game is streamlined. The left hand plays bass lines, a little inspired by the Cuban playing. The right hand can reinforce the left hand or play solo lines placed in the middle of the morello cherry song, a bit like the jembe soloists. The majority of pianists are former jembefolas who have gone on to play the piano out of necessity. On the first video, these are examples taken from a big wedding. On the second one, we can see more traditional dances, with a reduced number of tapers. Finally on a third video the pianist is alone, accompanying women with calabashes. If you have difficulties playing back and want to take advantage of other video formats, use the Videos module

Musical Modes

With the arrival of electric pianos in the middle of the jembe, purists will scream at scandal. However, with a sober playing style, the bass lines and the small interventions of the right hand can bring an interesting color. This is not always the case and unfortunately, many pianofolas have no restraint. First of all, there is the drift in power. It's very easy to dominate the game when you're plugged into a 200 W sound system and have only one knob to turn. Worse and systematically, at the moment of the acceleration of the dance, the pianists switch their instrument into a rhythm box and we then witness a sound delirium close to DJ performances. Under these conditions, the present jembéfolas no longer have a say, submerged by artificial sounds coming out of a powerful sound system.

Like all musical modes, we don't always know where they come from and who imported them. What is certain is that the party organizers, the women who supervise weddings, like everything that makes a "racket" and blows their noses. This drift seems to only affect Ivoiry Cost for the moment, although electric pianos are beginning to be heard in Burkina Faso.

These sound delirious only touch the big weddings, those under the big top, with a powerful sound system. Hopefully, however, this trend will weary. It would be deeply regrettable if, in Africa, the traditional jembe, already beset by the desire to please the West and the rationalization of courses, were to be drawn into the turbulent waters of World Music.

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