Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, Malian culture) by Rob on 17-03-2010

Rob is just back from a fascinating, exhausting and extremely worthwhile trip across the Dogon Plain in Mali.

The purpose of the visit was (basically):

(i) To investigate the attitudes towards music in the community (including in the church).
(ii) To discover which Dogon song genres are used in church and which others could be used (and for what kind of song).
(iii) To investigate the local instruments, their significance and who plays them.

Starting in Sangha, I met with some great musicians, including these two blokes, who were making rope out of old rice sacks:

From Sangha, we travelled down the cliff and across the plain all the way to Koro. This was a good 40 miles and almost entirely on dry sand track like this one:

Of course, the instruments are always insteresting to see and study. Here are just a few of the ones I discovered on my trip:

TL: The kere, a four-holed flute with – interestingly – a stopped end. Plays (of course) the pentatonic scale.
TR: The ubiquitous “pressure drum”, called the gomboi in Dogon Land.
BL: The Sagaru – more of a church instrument from what I could tell, but very nice! It’s half a large gourd with cauri shells around the top edge. It is then thrown in the air and spun in alternate directions to make a noise.
BR: This is the gingire, the only indigenous Dogon chordophone I came across; the “hunter’s harp” or koni exists but, apparently, is not of Dogon origin.

There you go! I shall be glad to return to the “relative coolness” of Bamako after temps of up to 42 Celsius on the plain. That said, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Thanks for reading.

1 Comment posted on "Done Dogon and gone!"
anne on March 17th, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

glad you are safely home and had such a good trip.