Farafina’s music has a polyrhythmic structure that is both complex and yet immediately clear, but above all this music is an irrestible driving force to dance. The rhythmic framework is built around the tama (a little drum held high under the arm) of Tiawara Keïta, the eldest member of the group who relies on his inner vision to observe life and fills his nights with music to express what he has seen. Constructed around this pillar, this metronome, is the rhythm: the two balafons (wooden xylophones whose slats are amplified by goudrds) of Bakari Traoré and Baba Diarra; the bara (a bulbous calabash with goat skin) of Bêh Palm and Soulemane Sanou’s doumdou’da (a long cylindrical bass drum). From this foundation Yaya Ouattara’s djembé (an hourglass-shaped solo drum with goat skin) is left free to soar Soungalo Coulibaly’s flute and Seydou Zon’s sokou (a small African violin) bring harmony into the equation, a breath of fresh air to encourage the voices.
The idea of working with an African percussion ensemble has still not yet set in, even after the experience of having done so. I had very little to go on, in terms of past encounters with musicians of this genre and so, I felt that the best way to tackle the situation as producer, would be to allow the band a platform on which to “musically produce” itself. By this I mean that if all facilities were working properly (Real World Studios were functioning on all 12 cylinders) and the general recording environment was one that promoted friendly collaboration, then the results in production could be very positive. The music provided me with a clear sonic view of the people involved in its creation as they used their instruments to present a musical face that reflected them both as individuals and as the ensemble, Farafina. When this happens within the musical group, it is a reflection of all positive energy being put to work to accomplish a common goal.
I feel that my assumption was on target as I am quite comfortable with the results of the series of recordings that comprise the new Farafina album. I hope that you, the listener, are in accordance with this personal view.
- '...features a large variety of hand-made drums with balafons (wooden xylophones...), sokou (a small African violin), flute and vocals. Breathtaking, spellbinding and immensely powerful.' Orbit (UK)
- ..a rollicking and sometimes thrilling dialogue between percussion and xylophones that produces some mesmerising riffs... Q Magazine (UK)
- It is a very traditional, but never indigestable, feast served by flute and voice in a dialogue with a rich backing of percussion...all weaving a light net of polyrhythms with spicey blends... Summer 1993 World Music (UK)
- The ultimate festival band have proved their worth once more. July/August 1993 Tradewind/sterns (UK)