Badenya -- Manden Jaliya in New York City (CD Review)

 Badenya -- Manden Jaliya in New York City

The Mandinka language is one of context. Badenya in this context means "one mind" and is a reference to all Manding musicians, Malian kora player Mamadou Diabaté informs me in a recent conversation. There was a time that if you wanted to see and hear (experience) great Manding music you had to go to the source, West Africa. That may have been entirely true back in 1995. It certainly not the case these days. Several outstanding African have made New York City their home.

On Badenya, we are treated to a collection of 11 tracks of majestic Manding music performed by some NYC's most gifted resident musicians from Mali, Guinea, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. Leading off this compilation are five tracks from Super Mande, Mamadou Diabaté's group. These excellent ensemble performances feature two great Malian singers, Adjaratou Tapani Sissoko, and Abdoulaye Diabaté accompanied by kora, balophone, ngoni and guitar.

Badenya includes two tracks of traditional Manding kora music from Saliou Suso of Gambia and the late Keba Cissoko of Guinea Bissau. These solo performances are characteristic of the coastal style of kora music in which the Jeli Ba (grand musician, male) accompanies himself by singing and narratinging the histories and genealogies of their patrons. Saliou Suso of Gambia gives us "Sidi Yellah"-- Sidi has died-- taken from his "Griot" recording on Lyrichord, released a number of years ago. Too bad he has not released any other recordings that I am aware of.

Keba Bobo Cissoko was an active performer in NYC's music scene until illness took him from this world February 8th, 2003. While living in Conakry, Guinea, in the early eighties Keba performed with the Ballets Africains, Ensemble Instrumental National and Merveilles d'Afrique. In Europe and America, Keba played kora with fusion groups Tamalalou and Fula Flute. We miss him!

My favorite track is the balophone duet 'Sori Kemdon', sans vocals, performed by Guinea musicians Abou Sylla and Famoro Diabaté. Their deft mallet work produces a sweet and lyrical plunking. I could go for a whole CD of such balophone playing--very nice indeed.

Track 8, "Keme Burema," on this disc pulls in a track from the CD "Fula Flute" released by the band of the same name. We get to hear the tambin an end-blown flute played by Bailo Bah of Guinea. The overblown sound reminds me jazz multi instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

So it is readily apparent that the music of West Africa is alive and well somewhere in New York City. Whether you're in the boogie down Bronx or in the East Village's Alphabet city, if you look for it you will find it. Oh, did I mention that the artists on Badenya teach? You no longer have to go to West Africa, but I would recommend that you go at least once.

David Gilden -- 4/27/03