Lamba History

Lamba (Jelidon) HistorL: from various sources (Michael Wall, etc.)

NAME OF RHYTHM: Lamban, Lamba, Lambambaa, Lanbango, Lambango, Lambang, Jali,
                Jeli Foli, Jalidon,  Dialidon, Diely-Don, Griot

COUNTRY:        All Mande countries (Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast,
                                     The Gambia and Senegal)



Here's my understanding of Lamban (sometimes spelled Lamba or Lambango in
The Gambia), also known as Jeli Don (Dance of the Jelis ) or simply Griot
(a term that originally apeared in French travel writing in the 17th
century referring to jelis or the Wolof or Fula equivalent):

It has origins on the balafon as a piece created by and for jelis (Maninka
hereditary professional musicians), specifically the Kouyate lineage. If
you want to praise a Kouyate, all you need do is play Lamban. How and when
the dundun came along with Lamban is impossible to speculate upon--maybe it
even started out on dundun, but there are no oral traditions about this. At
any rate, it makes the most sense that the jembe is a later accretion to
Lamban. The crux of the problem is: when jembe players played along with
balafon and dundun players, why did they choose a 4/4 generic accompaniment
pattern (albeit played at times with a triplet feel)? I can't see any basis
for an answer to this question yet.   (snip)

In Greensboro, Joh had explained that Dansa was played to encourage workers
during agricultural labor and Lamban was played by jelis to celebrate when
the fruits of that labor (the harvest) was shared with them. He may also
have said that Dansa was played to celebrate the harvest. But I wouldn't
pin Joh down to that single explanation; of course he may have simplified
what he knew due to the circumstances. There does seem to be a close
connection between Lamban and Dansa, but the historical explanation is
unclear. On Djimo Kouyate's cassette he has the dundun go into Dansa during
Dialidon (Jelidon), and that is typical. The
bilingual article "Pre-theatre et rituel: National Folk Troupe of Mali" in
African Arts, Spring 1968 vol. 1, no. 3, pages 31-37, written by Jean
Decock, shows a drawing and photo of Dansa dancers indicating it is danced
by girls from Khaso (Xaso) to celebrate the harvest.  (Eric Charry)

During Sunjata's time (13th century), there was an occasion when all the
balaphon players gathered together.  They said, "We should have our own
tune, which we can dance to ourselves".  So it was on that day they
invented "Lambango" for the jalibas to dance to.  It became a general tune
for all jalis, which they used to play and dance to, to entertain their
heroes, kings, and patrons.

Although it originated as music for the balaphon, it was also played on the
kontingo (lute). There was a kontingo player named Lamin Dambaketeh who
modified "Lambango" to its present style, changing the tune a bit. Lamin
Dambaketeh was about to marry a very famous jali woman, Bantang Kuyate, who
was an excellent singer and historian. One day, Lamin left his village
to visit Bantang. Unfortunately, before he arrived, she died and was
buried. Upon his arrival, he was told the sad story. He asked the people to
show him Bantang's grave.  He went there with his kontingo and played a
special version for his dead fiancee.

"All is possible, Bantang Kuyate (but) Beauty will not prevent death,
Bantang Kuyate"

This modified version of the melody has since become the standard
"Lambango" and the original version is no longer played.  (Lynne Jessup)

In past times, Lambambaa was played as a celebration of the culture of the
Jaliyaa.  Unlike the vast majority of songs in the traditional repetoire,
which are centered around non-jali figures, Lambambaa is meant for the
members of the jaliyaa in the village in which it is performed, as the men
play the kora and balo, and the women dance and sing.  Today this song is
extremely popular in the Mandinka area, and especially in Gambia where it
has been adapted to include lines that call for the populace to pull
together for the good of the country. (Morikeba Kouyate)

This is a dance celebrating the art of the jali.  (Ancient Heart)

Lamban is one of only several kora pieces that was created by jalis for
their own entertainment.  The piece has not been traced to any other
particular story or legend, and probably originated on the balaphon.
Malian jalis often play this classic piece to relate any event they may
wish. Lamban is also played in Suata tuning (Ed. note - a kora tuning).
Amadu's interweaving of kumbengo and birimintingo illustrates the depth of
his musical prowess. (Much of kora music is based on short cycles of finger
movements called kumbengo.  These kumbengo may be continuously developed
within a piece with slight variations in rhythm and melody.  Another
important element of kora playing is birimintingo, or downward spiraling
melodic runs, which can be fast and highly ornamental in nature.)  (Amadu

This is supposed to be one of the oldest tunes in the Manding repertoire.
"The musicians  didn't compose this for any patron, they did it for
themselves.  They would just sit down with their wives and feel happy, and
their wives would dance and sing.".  Lambango is originally a balaphon
tune, in Hardino tuning. (Ed. note - another kora tuning; this recording is
a kora performance) (Jaliology)

A griot song and dance celebrating the Griots themselves, praising God for
giving them the art of music.  Griots rejoice in this ancient song that is
played in many villages, especially on moonlit nights. (Jali Kunda)

This song praised the Jali (Oral Historians) who keep alive the tribal
culture of the people of West Africa  (Vieux Diop)

This tune is dedivated to griots whenever they host a ceremony  (M'Bady Kouyate)

This rhythm is played by the griots, a class of travelling musicians, poets
and story tellers whose duties include the recitation of family and tribal
histories.  (Khassonka Dunun)

Lamba is the dance of the Jalis, Keepers of the Oral Tradition.  Lamba is a
spiritual dance and rhythm that is used in healing to promote a sound mind
and body.  (Nurudafina Abena)

Lamba is a song/dance/ceremony enacted at passages of life and for
spiritual cleansings  (Sule Greg Wilson)

This music is played by the Griots for Griots, also known as Djelis.  They
say Allah did a good thing in creating the status of Djelli.  (Yaya Diallo)

Dialidon is traditionally the special rhythm for only griot families.
Today it is popular and danced by many people in the cities and villages.
However, the song that accompanies the music is specifically to honor griot
members.  (Djimo Kouyate)

One of few songs designed to entertain griot clan members, griot families
only play this song when amongst themselves.  Lambang is accompanied by the
Jalidon, the griot dance. When the moon is bright the men come out and play
the kora and the balaphone while the women dance and sing the Lambang song.
Music is created by God and God created us to play good music and dance.
(Mandeng Tunya)

In Mali, Lamba is played entirely on dunun; in Guinea and Senegal it is
played by djembe and dunun together.  It is a celebration and processional
rhythm,  One version is the "Kings Lamba" used by rulers and chiefs,
another is the "Dance of the Griots" which is danced and played for the
Jeli or griots; the traditional oral historians, praise singers,
ambassadors and advisors of West Africa. (Impala)

A Bambara/Manding rhythm (with it's accordant songs, dances, clothes,
talismans, and so forth) played at rituals of major passages in life -
marriage or circumcision for example.  A royal court dance of gesture and
protocol where the dancer gives praise to the almightly chiefs, kings,
queeens and so on.  The introduction is a series of praises and
salutations.  (Christine Reagen Rosales)

The term for a group of dances from the Malinke people of West Africa used
as court dances for kings, and dances of healing and rites of passage.

A widely known song about the joys of being a jeli. The lyrics refer to a
familar expression which stresses the importance of the jeli to social
cohesion: "Jeliya, o ye jalla di, ni jalla wulila, kulusi be wuli" (The art
of jeliw is like a belt; if you take it away, the trousers fall down).
(Ana Be Kelen)

That's another very old song. I don't know who composed it. There are lots
of new ideas in this version, to see how it goes with the band. The song
comes from Mali. If a  musician, a jali, likes to marry a jali woman, then
the day of the marriage all the jalis come together and play this song, and
dance. It's a song for the jalis.  (Dembo Konte)

Song of the Jelis  (Mali-Guinee)  God himself entrusted the jelis with
their mission just as he created invisible spirits and mortal humans. A
jeli cannot fear telling the truth to men who, one day, will return to the
earth since the jeli's words are immortal. Hear ye, I know a land where men
scrape the hard earth without complaining and women reap immense fields of
sadness.  In this land, babies die of hunger and mothers cry softly.



Ye, jaliyaa, Alla le ye ka jaliyaa da
(Ah, jaliyaa, it was God who created jaliyaa)

Alla nung ka mansayaa da, ate le nata bannayaa da
(It was God, too, who created kingship, and then wealth)    (Morikeba Kouyate)

Ye, Jaliya-o, Alla le ye ka jaliya da
(Oh music, God created music)               (Jali Kunda)

Fugaba sangban kodole tokole fuga mogo lombali milon
Fuga, fugaba mogo lambali milon
Dia dia dia dia dia e dia dia lombali a dimini
Sangban kodo e ate togola fugala

Old field is not barren desert, He who doesn't know you, ignore what you're
worth.  Old field, old field.  He who doesn't know you, ignore what you're
worth.  Oh! How ignorance can hurt!  (Kendigo)

Oh Libo Mansanya
Nye Kilebo La Ila
Simbo Mansanya
E ye Djallia     (Lasensua) 

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