Blue Monster Records, 2002
you think of flute music as gentle and dulcet, you probably haven't
heard the howling and growling of the Fula flute, most typical
of the Fouta Diallon in Guinea. The overblown flute that thrilled
rock fans in the music of Jethro Tull back in the '70s seems tame
when compared with the exhilarating, playful theatrics of New York
based flautist Bailo Bah. Bah is the featured player in this ground-breaking
ensemble, the first to put this popular West African sound front and
center at all times.
Leroux, originally from Montreal but now an important figure in New
York's African music scene, studied Fula flute in Guinea and produced
this recording. Most of the tracks are played by Bah and Leroux on
two wooden flutes, called tambin. The opening track, "Wali," starts
out with a wild flourish from Bah and then settles into a gorgeous
texture with Leroux laying out a cyclic bass over which Bah snarls
and wails. There's a deep, elemental feel to Bah's more passionate
outbursts, full of notes half-sung and half-played. But there are
also lots of serene moments, as on the stately flute duo, "N'Diannamo"
and the waltz-like "Soundiata."
set includes a number of classic songs from the standard Manding griot
repertoire, like "Keme Bourema," "Djanjou," and "Soundiata." Some
of these feature rich accompaniment by other New York based Manding
musicians, notably balafonist Famoro Kouyate and kora players Keba
Cissoko and Yacouba Sissoko. Yacouba's lacey, racing melodies on "Djanjou"
provide a delicious foil to the dueling flutes. The decision to include
other sounds is a good one; they are present just enough to vary the
textures without taking the focus away from the all-important flutes.
Bah is an extraordinarily expressive player capable of beautiful reverie
on "Folinke," backed by rolling balafon and bass, and also dramatic
flights of emotive improvisation, as on the darkly majestic "Douga."
Leroux includes one original composition, "Teriya," which brings in
the influence of French Canadian folk music as well as two Brazilian
berimbaus. Fula Flute, the group and the record, represent an inspired
and original idea carried out with energy and flare.
by: Banning Eyre for www.afropop.org