Dunun Gbè / Kon - Paul Nas
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Dunun Gbè / Kon

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Dunungbe, Dunumbè (Dununbè, Dunung’bè, Kon) originates from Hamana, Siguiri and Kankan. The Dunungbè is called the ‘Mother of all Dounoumba-rhythms’ (about 20): The dance of the strong men. The Kenkeni pattern is typical for all Dounounba’s.

Dunungbe is the mother of all Dounoumba rhythms; the dance of the strong men and comes from Hamana, Siguiri and Kankan in Guinea. The kenkeni pattern is the same for all Dounoumbas and typical of these rhythms. The bell-pattern that is played in this can vary greatly.
The word ‘dunungbe, dounoumba’ (or dundumba) describes a kind of folk dance in Upper Guinea, in the regions of Kankan, Siguiri and Kouroussa, but its roots are in Hamanah, a canton of Kouroussa Prefecture. It is also called ‘the dance of strong men’. It takes place in the Bara, the dance place of a village. In the middle is a large tree (a ceiba pentandra or a mango). Circles of men or children are created around the tree, each representing a social group or age group (kare). The Baranti, the heads of the Bara, take responsibility for the festivities to run smoothly. They are the first to dance and no one else can use Bara without their permission. Although the Dounoumba is exclusive to men, women can dance to the side or go to the center to animate the atmosphere of dance.
Kara hierarchies within and between individuals are expressed in dance and personal conflicts can also be formally regulated with strokes by Manin Fosson, a whip made from hippopotamus skin, the sound of the drums. The leader has a decorated battle ax called ‘Djende‘, and a Manin Fosson. The Baratingi, the oldest young people in the village, show their courage by provoking their younger counterparts, the Bardogono, on the sound of dounoumba.
When one of the younger children wants to join a group of older children, he leaves his own round and starts dancing backwards. He meets the leader of the other group, who asks him ‘The way!’ To which he replies: ‘It is on the back !. In response, the child is beaten, after which the group of older children is accepted or rejected depending on the child’s courage.
Some healers have also attributed therapeutic powers to dance because of the trance and hypnosis it brings.
Important collective decisions were made before or after the great Dunungbe, as almost the entire community met at such events. Dunumba is also the name of the largest of the drums, so indispensable to retain the enthusiasm of the dancers as of the musicians. The Dounoun is a cylindrical drum with the barrel covered with leather at the ends. A metal bell is attached to the barrel, which is held horizontally. The percussionist touches one of the sheets with a large stick in one hand and the other with a metal bar. There are always three of these drums in the regions mentioned here, and these are, from the largest to the smallest, the Dounoumba, the Sangban and the Kenkeni. The ideal time to play the Dounoumba set consists of the three doundouns, and two djembe’s (one of which as a soloist).
Nowadays it is practiced peacefully during the festivities, and even women participate. (Wossolon).
Originally, this repertoire was only known by the Malinke from Hamanah, but today has become very popular and regularly play other peoples such as Susu from Guinea and Senegal Wolof, but with a significantly modified style.
There are more than fifty rhythms of this family, the variations of which are given in the length of the sentences and in the cycles of the beams. The one of the current recording has a cycle of two sizes. The different rhythms have some characteristics in common: the rhythm is slow, the rhythmic cycle is twelve times and the kenkeni always plays the same rhythm.
All rhythmic figures played by the soloist are similar, but they must be coordinated with the different phrase lengths (which can have eight beats), and with the steps of the dancers.
Here are the names of some rhythms that are part of the family of dounoumba rhythms: Bada, Bandogialli (Bando Djei), Bolo Konondo, Dunun Gbe (Doundoumbe), Gberedu, Kadan, Koudindoundoun, Nantalomba, Takosaba, Balan Sondé, Demosoni Kelen,Donaba, Gbunkundo, Konowule(n) (I , II), Kuraba Don, Taama, Takonani.

Den de nja wa wo nde, den de nja wo itolo nd

My son; the party starts, my son; let’s go to the dance area

Sources
Lessons: Martin Bernhard, Mamoudou ‘Delmundo’ Keïta, Ponda O’Bryan, Nansedy Keïta
Written material: Mamady Keïta, Famoudou Konaté, Stephan Rigert, Åge Delbanco, Paul Janse, Rafaël Kronberger

Last updated 15 September 2014