Today, with my friend Nicola Scaldaferri, researcher in Ethnomusicology at the University of Milan, I drove to Banzon to record a performance of donso music by Diakari Traoré and Bakari Ouattara. We set up a room of Bakari’s house in Banzon to record as best we could with two Rode NT55 to Sound Devices 744T. With just two microphones, it was very difficult to balance the sound and let the voice of the singers stand out from the noise of the donson’goni‘s metal rattles and of the negeshien, the scraped metal tube that invariably accompanies donso music (played here by Mohamed Ouattara and Mohamed Diabaté).
We chose this song for you to listen, in part because of its rhythmic difference from the rest of any donso music I’d heard before. It is called N’Tenen, and it is performed for killers of lions, buffalos and hippos only. Furthermore, they must have killed a dankoroba, an old solitary male. To kill one is hunting at a superior level, for solitary animals are considered more dangerous and able to perform magic. These hunters are the only ones allowed to dance to this piece, and the difference in rhythm was explained by Bakari as necessary for them to dance slowly, solemnly, so that everybody else respects them. Diakari’s voice names various killers of these animals, and says that you cannot buy name. “Na-so ni Don-so ti kelen ye“, nice way of playing with words to say that not all hunters are donso and that hunting can be a serious matter that requires different skills. Some come back with something, some just come back. There is a section made of metaphors about the body of the hunter ready to shoot, like “one eye for the morning, one for the dawn” (an eye aiming and the other closed), one leg is a viper (leaning on the ground) the other a cobra (the knee raised). “You walked on nine graves, and you stand on the tenth to shoot a lion” (who killed ten hunters before you). “If a hunter gives the shoulder (gama) of his prey to the musician, he will tell everybody of his deeds”. “Mogo ye ni mogo lon ti kelen ye“, seeing somebody and knowing someone is not the same. Then it makes differences among hunters according to the prey they kill, which is a common theme of many of these songs of praise.