– Sofa is a very old Malinke Rhythm that, according to some, takes you back to the time period in which warriors (in Malinke ‘Sofa’) road horses. These warriors had large plate-shape drums (tavela ), that were also used for the sending of messages. When Sofa was played, the horses with their warriors ‘danced’ on the rhythm. It was also played when a great warrior or hunter in the village passed away (from: Famoudou Konaté; Rhythmen der Malinke).
– The rhythm was played for the warriors on horseback. It was supposed to support the brave and strong men who went to combat, as well as a praise them for their succes and bravery when they came back. In the old days it was accompanied by a Bolon, a string instrument. The Bolon was played by ‘Griots des Guerre’ (war – griots) who knew the story, the song and the praise of the war and warriors since generations.( Uschi Billmeier/Mamady Keïta: A Life for the Djembé).
– Other sources mention the another meaning for Sofa: it was played in honour of the king.
– Limbadji Toko (Fatala; Gongoma Times), is for some a Sofa -variant. It is a rhythm that is played at funerals (of warlords) and refers to people with a lot of perseverance. Limbadji is a word from the Baga-language.
In the song here (from the Mögöbalu CD by Mamady Keïta) two songs of praise (to Mamady Keïta) are joined: Kèlèmansa Bon and Warabah. By the use of simile and metaphor the griot evokes to the wild cat, who rules over nature, and to the warlord, as noble as he can be and whose mother could only be an exeptional woman. In the song he uses Nankama, the nickname of Mamady.
Kèlèmansa bon na kolon tè, Nankamah ini woura
Mosso bè tè kèlèmansa dén södon, N’nanin Bölonfo lè lah
N’anindiya lémaa, Woula djan na kani magni, Yééé warabah ma naa?, Aaa mankan, Yé warabah lé koo, Mankan yé warabah le fèè !
Allah ta Allah bali koo tèè,
Nankamah ini woura!, An nani djya léma, Bélbélé ini woura!
The house of the warlord is empty! Good evening to you Nankama.
Not just any woman can give birth to the son of a warlord
I, I have come to play the bolon, I have come full of hope,
distance is bad for friendship, it is not good to humiliate he who is popular
Has the wildcat not arrived? It’s really he,
the wildcat who makes the echoes resound.
We are talking about a famous nobleman,
the wildcat who makes echoes resound
For Allah noting is impossible, Good evening to you Nankama
We have come full of hope, Good evening to you, giant!