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Traditional Music and Dance of Mali

Diakite, Bah 1997. “Traditional Music and Dance of Mali”. In: Dagan, Esther (ed.). The Spirit’s Dance in Afrika. Montreal: Galerie Amrad African Arts Publication.

Abstract von Andrea Wolvers

Music and dance play an important role in the Malian society. There are various different varieties among the ethnic groups of Mali and on different occasions such as marriages, baptisms, funerals, circumcisions and other initiation rites, which can be classified thematically into three types: ritual, work and leisure.

One example of a ritual dance is the jine-don spirit dance, a possession cult that exists in many Malian societies and is performed at various occasions, for instance sacrifices, initiation rites or family ceremonies. The dance starts with a warm-up phase, where the dancers begin to evoke different genies and is followed by a more vivid phase in which the genies descend onto the dancers and the trance begins. There are different types of trance according to the individual and the genie that is incarnated. The chorus “Gnama bon ndala” (“evil power, go away from me”) is the end of the ceremony.

Another very special example is the masquerades of the Bamana and the Bozo of Markala, a village near Segou. There are visible and hidden dancers performing at the same time in these masquerades, which are organized by the ton (youth association). The puppets have the shape of mythical animals (sogow) or human beings and the puppeteers who carry them are hidden inside a kind of “box”. The puppeteers alternate with masked dancers, who represent symbolic persons and mythical animals as well. Both kinds of hidden dancers express the character of their puppet or mask by their movement in dance. There are also visible dancers: guides who dance with the hidden dancers and members of the ton who perform circle dances and have jumping contests.

This kind of “total theatre” is part of the cultural identity of the Bamana and the Bozo. They create a supernatural atmosphere somewhere between illusion and reality by connecting the visible and the invisible world.

 

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