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West African KANZA Music
West African KANZA Music

Kanza is a very new concept within the Miniankala musical culture in the region west of the city of Koutiala. This kind of music is a fusion of the past and the present. It opens the door to the future.


“Music, in addition to being an art, remains a stimulus for work. It is everywhere in work. Rhythmic music (drumming) stirs the soul of man. The human being moves with the rhythm. To help a farmer work fast, he needs a drummer who accompanies him. Music is the “boss” in Africa; it regulates the rhythm of work. In a work group, one needs a musician; he stirs lazy people, interrupts conversations during work. One needs a type of music for each category of workers. The shepherd who pastures his flock all day plays a flute or singled-stringed guitar. He follows the rhythm of the flock. Work [which is] physical requires rhythmic music; another [kind] which is long and exacting requires melodies. The inverse can distract or disturb. Work and partying are mixed.”
Source: Yaya Diallo, “At the Threshold of the African Soul,” INTERculture 141, (October 2001): 34.

To motivate, the musician has to sing magic songs, to say exciting words to each worker. In Mali, the motivating words are called: “Mai sonyi” in Mininaka and “Fassan” in Bambara.

What about the new generation?

The professions and the social values change. It is more and more difficult to motivate the young people today with ancestral songs. It is time to create a new style of music that can reconcile the elders and the young people. In the 50’s, people from the villages of Djélé, N’Tosso and Nampropéla created the concept of KANZA. Groups of workers and farmers decided to mix the ancestral music with the music of young people.

New musical ensembles were born in Miniankala. Samba the apprentice trucker is a good examble of this new era. To be a trucker is a new profession for us in Africa, so that needs a new music.

So, what’s new?

The new elements of Kanza are:
- The speed of the music, you have to play fast.
- The mix of different kinds of sounds
- The dance is for everyone, no age, no gender divisions.
- More room for creativity and improvisation, but one must respect the basic foundations of the music: no folly, no madness.

The instruments used by the ensemble of Kanza are:
- 2 Balafons (mother and child)
- 2 Bafokos (mother and child)
- 1 Tama (Talking drum).
- 1 N’Pingouéré (Dounou) with a bell.
- 1 Haranga
- 2 lead vocalists
- The ensemble of all the dancers who dance in the circle respond to the leaders. The songs don’t have any harmony. Everyone can sing.

Based on the basic principles of Kanza, I transposed the traditional music to western instruments. The fact that I am a Foula led me to choose the violin and the saxophone to play the solo parts. The other instruments are: one or two electric guitars, bass guitar, drumset, tama, bafoko, two djembes and one dounouba. The mix of these instruments gives a unique sound. My Chinese friend Dr. Han said, “Yaya, you are a Taoist; your music sounds like the music of eastern China.” I laughed and said, “That’s good news, I can be the richest man in the world. I need to sell one CD for 1 dollar apiece to each Chinese and I will be a billionaire.”

To conclude, “Kanza” is the past, the present and the future at the same time.


The "Live at Club Soda" Song Titles:

1. Samba The Trucker: Music that addresses the coarse behavior of the apprentice truckers. “Samba” is a popular first name in West Africa.

2. Sewa Nimo: The song talks about jealousy, stupid hatred and cupidity which are a scourge in the world today. The singer finds his inner exile and peace through the Drums and the Balafons. Thinking about the most beautiful birds: Tiori and Kossara living in Miniankala, the singer wishes to obtain the inner beauty like the plumages of these divine creatures.

3. Gifono: We gave this title to this music to honor Gifono Koné, one of the founders of the concept Kanza. Traditionally the song talks about a resourceful person. There is not only one-way to do things. “The bird doesn’t have milk for the children; but, she finds a way to feed them.” One more proverb can help us to understand the philosophy behind the song. “If the crocodile decides to buy trousers (long pants), don’t ask what hw will do with his tail. He knows what he is doing. Don’t worry too much about people’s problems.

4. Chechon (The Skunk): We don’t have this animal in Africa, but we have his relative that we call “Chechon.” Nobody likes the skunk, but he loves himself. There are love stories between skunks. The skunk mom loves her children, but the young children learned to hate themselves. The mom skunk says, “The children are depressed. They always cry; what can I do? The father responds, “Children! Stop crying, you have to be proud of yourselves. It doesn’t matter who you are; the world belongs to everyone. All the flowers in nature can’t be roses. “

5. Forgeron (The Blacksmith): This song is about the praises of the blacksmith. He is the man of knowledge, master of fire, water, metal and wood. He is also the sorcerer initiator of the Komo (male secret society).

6. Nakan: Here we talk about domestic violence. The crazy lover tries everything to re-conquer his lost love. The woman says to her obstinate lover, “If I say I don’t love you, it’s not a reason to keep me as a hostage, to make my life miserable or to kill me.

7. Teli:This is the call for patriotism. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, don’t forget your roots, your identity and your country. In the village we call this kind of music N’Togo. It doesn’t need musical instruments. I call this song Téli because my son’s name is Téli Diallo.

8. Makanou: This is about infinite love. I have the blues because love exists. I am sick; the name of the disease is love. I am sad. That is love’s fault. I am stressed and depressed because I love love. … etc. Without this calamity people call love I would be happy.

Yaya Diallo


Yaya Diallo’s Live at Club Soda album with his band Kanza takes a dramatic shift from his earlier albums by bridging traditional music with occidental instruments including saxophone, electric violin, bass and lead guitars and drumset as well as voice and traditional African drums. Yaya Diallo’s innovative music gives solo voice to all the instruments within an African rhythmic structure and swings with a sound reminiscent of 1950’s rock-n-roll or blues to a beat driven by the Dounouba and spoken to by the Djembe drums. Live at Club Soda is recorded in Montreal, 1989, will be released in November, 2003 on Onzou Records, http://www.onzou.com .
- Stephen Conroy, Onzou Records Producer

Live at Club Soda, recorded in Montreal, 1989 will be released on in November, 2003 on Onzou Records, http://www.onzou.com . The opening track “Samba The Trucker” can be listened to on New Music Canada, http://www.newmusiccanada.com/genres/artist.cfm?Band_id-7862 .


Stephen Conroy, Producer
Yaya Diallo’s West African Music
Onzou Records, http://www.onzou.com


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