AH NDIYA Oumou Sangare
From the World Circuit album Moussolou
Samasa Records, Bamako
World Circuit Music @ 1991
In 1989, when 21 year-old singer Oumou Sangare recorded her debut cassette, Moussolou (Women) on world Circuit Records, she left an indelible mark on the Malian music scene. Before that, the loping, bluesy music of Malis Wassoulou region had scarcely competed with dominant pop style played by the countrys griot caste of musicians and praise singers. Yet after Oumou Sangare sold 200,000 legal copies of her first release, the Wassoulou singers, who are mostly women, won new respect. Since then, Oumou Sangare had performed extensively throughout West Africa, has done many European tours and has marked her debut in the U.S and Canada.
Oumou Sangares pure, sweet alto in AH NDIYA pierces the heart and her message, a condemnation of arranged marriages, sparked a national debut. I said to parents, let us choose our futures, explains Oumou. Our futures are what? Our husbands, our friends. Let us choose them ourselves.
Unlike griot singers who recount the tales and glories of great families, Wassoulou singers can choose their own topics just as they chose to become musicians. The region people are mostly Fulani. They came from the north centuries ago and have maintained many of their distinctive rhythms, melodies and instruments. The Kamele Ngoni, a deep sounding, six-string traditional harp, renders the quick, funky melodies that define the Wassoulou sound. Young musicians have long taken up the Kamele Ngoni to play dance music and sing about everyday life. The Kamele Ngonis larger cousin, the Dosi Ngoni, was employed in the ancient songs of the regions hunters whose lore remains shrouded in mystery.
While many Wassoulou divas have gone electric, Oumou Sangare still bases her sound around the Kamele Ngoni, the djembe drum, the metallic karagnan, as well as flute and violin. Electric guitar and bass distinguish Oumou Sangares group from the centuries-old roots sound.
Oumou Sangares follow-up release, Ko Sira (Marriage Today) on World Circuit Records, created a stir to rival her debut. This time she took on the topic of the womans role in Malian society, one of the issues being the practice of polygamy, common in Muslim West Africa. My religion says to a man, If you are afraid you may be unfaithful to your wife, go and find another on the condition that you must treat both of them the same way. That is very difficult. Its hard to love two wifes the same way. Men hear that they are allowed to marry four wifes but they ignore the rest. I was born in a polygamous family. I have seen all the suffering that our mothers went through. Oumou Sangares cool analysis and irresistible sound ensure that she will prick the national conscience for years to come.
--Text taken from the CD sleeve, Africa Fete 3 (1995 Island Records, Inc. 162-539 949-2)