He grows gourds into devices in Berkeley group backyard

    He grows gourds into devices in Berkeley group backyard

    Mamadou Sidibe at residence in Berkeley with a group garden-grown gourd and his n’goni — a stringed Malian instrument he’s performed all over the world. This yr he turned three gourds he grew into n’gonis. Credit score: Andrew Gilbert

    Nobody has ever mistaken the Berkeley flats for any a part of Mali, the landlocked West African nation that stretches from tropical savanna within the south to the huge northern district within the Sahara. However that hasn’t stopped Wassoulou-reared Mamadou Sidibe from making an attempt to show the Karl Linn Neighborhood Backyard on Hopkins Road into a little bit patch of residence by rising gourds, an integral part of the instrument that’s taken him to theaters and festivals all over the world. 

    Ngoni and cousin hanging out in Berkeley. Credit score: Mamadou Sidibe

    A grasp of the n’goni, a standard hunter’s harp that he remodeled right into a mainstay of Malian common music again within the Nineteen Eighties, Sidibe sounded greater than happy that his efforts had just lately, nicely, born fruit. He’s been at it for years, “however there isn’t sufficient solar right here for a very good gourd,” he defined. “This yr I attempted one thing and obtained three superb ones for the primary time! Everybody within the backyard says ‘Wow! Mama, you’re employed very onerous.’ Final yr I obtained one after which somebody stole it.” 

    The three bushel gourds Sidibe grew this yr, drying earlier than he began the method of turning them into devices. Credit score: Mamadou Sidibe

    He taught himself to construct the standard six-string instrument whereas rising up, a trial and error course of that required continuous tweaks as he regularly doubled the variety of strings. Drying and getting ready a bushel gourd is a painstaking course of that takes months, and the n’gonis that Sidibe sells are prized by musicians.

    However gourds aren’t the one factor that Sidibe has been cultivating in Berkeley. Since shifting right here in 2004 together with his American-born spouse, Latin music percussionist Vanessa Sidibe, he’s steadily related with musicians desirous to discover the rhythms and kinds he grew up with in Mali’s Wassoulou area. Sidibe introduces a brand new collaboration Thursday on the Again Room with Berkeley multi-instrumentalist Eliyahu Sills on oud, flutes and bass, and Berkeley Competition of Choro co-founder Brian Rice on Brazilian and West African percussion. 

    It’s a mission that he and Sills have been speaking about for years, ever since Sills noticed him carry out with the Fula Brothers, Sidibe’s West Africa-meets-Americana mission with guitarist Walter Strauss. They lastly discovered the fitting time to pursue a collaboration and on the first rehearsal final month Sidibe was delighted to find that Sills had recruited Rice, a percussionist he’d had his eye on for years. Nonetheless within the means of discovery, the brand new group options some items by Sills and plenty of music by Sidibe. “I introduced all my songs,” he stated. 

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    Sidibe additionally has a number of Fula Brothers gigs developing with Strauss, together with Friday at Walnut Creek’s Satan Mountain Coffeehouse, April 29 at Petaluma’s Polly Klaas Theatre for a fundraiser supporting the Sonder Venture’s work offering clear consuming water in Burkina Faso and Malawi, and again in Berkeley June 10 for a present at the Again Room. 

    Strauss was enjoying with one other eminent Malian musician, kora grasp Mamadou Diabaté, when he first met Sidibe, who sat in with the band at Ashkenaz. Lengthy based mostly in West Sonoma, Strauss has discovered fascinating currents the place American people and blues idioms move into West African types. So as to not get misplaced on their prolonged improvisational flights Strauss has honed unusual rhythmic flexibility.

    Mamadou Sidibe joins Oumou Sangaré final October at Freight & Salvage. Courtesy: Mamadou Sidibe

    “Mamadou is among the most refined rhythmic participant I’ve ever labored with,” Strauss stated. “He’s obtained such a capability for, say, feeling three and 4 beats to the measure on the similar time. It’s an intuitive factor now we have to work out. I can watch his foot and he’s feeling it in three beats. I’ll begin feeling it that manner, and a short time later his foot is shifting in 4. I’ll ask him, ‘Is it this?’ ‘Sure.’ ‘However I assumed it was this.’ ‘Sure.’ It’s each, an entire gestalt.”

    The instrument that Sidibe performs, a 14-string kamele n’goni, is one which he pioneered. The standard six-string donso n’goni is used for hunter rituals and ceremonies within the Wassoulou area the place Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea converge. Sibide confronted a great deal of resistance when he began including strings and enjoying the instrument with the ladies who introduced the incantatory Wassoulou sound to the world, significantly Coumba Sidibe (no direct relation) and Oumou Sangaré.

    “I made it look very completely different and we did have a variety of fights,” he stated. “Folks don’t wish to change. However I assumed, what if I put two extra strings, and two extra? After I play that it’s very completely different. Folks began calling it kamele n’goni, ‘kamale’ means younger individuals, and I needed to vary it for common music.” 

    Sidibe’s musical ambition got here to fruition and he reshaped Malian music, however it wasn’t till the pandemic that he had the chance to report with Oumou Sangaré, his Bamako compatriot who introduced the n’goni new worldwide visibility. He’d accompanied her on the very begin of her profession, and so they gained nationwide consideration collectively within the mid-‘80s with a sequence of appearances on Malian tv. However he was again within the Wassoulou area when she made her first album in Bamako with famend arranger and producer Amadou Ba Guindo, 1990’s Moussolou, a mission that used a special n’goni participant. 

    Sidibe went again to working with the good Coumba Sidibe and Sangaré went on to develop into a global drive, recording a sequence of hit albums for World Circuit Data (launched within the US by Nonesuch), whereas embracing her position as an entrepreneur, activist and advocate for ladies’s rights in Africa. Through the years she and Sibide stayed in shut contact, and when she discovered herself within the U.S. in March 2020, she seized the chance to collaborate.

    Locked down removed from residence for an indeterminant interval, she purchased a home in Baltimore and “she known as me and stated, ‘Come right here, we are able to do some work collectively,’” he recalled. “She purchased my ticket and I spent six weeks there. We’d work all evening, as a result of within the daytime it was too noisy. We work, work, work and at 6 a.m. see mild exterior and go to mattress.”

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    Their diligence resulted in 10 of the 11 songs on her attractive 2022 album Timbuktu, a mission that drew on Sidibe’s deep familiarity with the n’goni’s string kin, just like the Dobro and slide guitar. And when Sangaré carried out at Freight & Salvage final October, she hailed Sidibe from the stage, inviting him as much as carry out together with her band. Whether or not he’s sowing in an Ohlone Greenway backyard or a home in Baltimore, the seeds planted by Sidibe yield some outstanding fruits.