FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Hans Rempel


When we non-Africans listen to this or to a similar kind of music, we are not able to grasp all we hear or to understand what we have been able to grasp to the full; unless we have a special, intimate knowledge not only of the music itself, but also of the culture in which it is embedded. This is best obtained by direct, intense "on the spot" contact. For this kind of music has always been closely related to various non-musical aspects such as dance, masquerade, pantomime, procession etc. and has always been integrated in experiences of an overriding nature, in "events" (in the general sense of the word) which accompany us throughout most of our lives: birth, circumcision and marriage ceremonies, death, mourning, burial and memorial rituals, and the most varied spheres of work and entertainment. We know from experience however, that this acoustically musical feature can interest or even fascinate us for its own sake, removed from its original surroundings and transported to geographically far off parts - assuming of course that we are equipped with an open mind and a natural inquisitiveness.

Although the "sheer enjoyment" of music is of course of utmost importance, there is yet another aspect to listening to such music, when it is played outside Africa. Americans and more recently Europeans and Asians as well have already (whether consciously or unconsciously is irrelevant) adopted many "Africanisms", many elements of African music. These are usually not "purely African" but are present in a broken, veiled form, have been altered, modified and transformed, and usually distorted, deformed, and levelled off. They are brought to us in jazz and popular music from the States, the Caribbean and South America where traces and elements of original African music are very much in evidence, and in some cases play an essential, major part.

In the music by AFRICA DJOLÉ these original African roots and sources are laid bare for all to see, regardless of the fact that they too are blended, are made up of internal Inner-West-African elements. It is therefore essential to play this kind of music not only within but also outside its own setting - for example in Europe - not in order to discredit original and, in the main, Mid-West-European based and grown traditions (such as Improvised Music) but to make us more aware of the worldwide influences of, and conflicts between various cultural backgrounds, which take place in our twentieth century, providing here and there an example of true synthesis, but also stand for an underdeveloped propagandistic, immature, illusionistic and utopian element hidden under the label "World Music".

This music by AFRICA DJOLÉ (which would no doubt sound different if heard in Guinea, in its original surroundings) also contains an element of this complex and contradictory involvement. This takes the form of the European mouthorgan, which does not however, disturb the overall impression or undermine the African tradition. The whole thing is centred around the typical black African metro-rhythmical model (in this case with a West African lean) within which, against a constant background of percussion instruments played in a ground-bass style, a free and varied element in which traditional rhythms are individually modified, unfolds.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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