A musician tells the story of his travels in Guinea, West Africa, learning about the people, history, music and rituals of the country.
Author Dave Kobrenski is a musician who has been studying the drum and flute music of the Malinke people for years. To do so properly, of course, one must learn from the experts, and so he travels to Guinea regularly during the winter season to study from musicians like Famoudou Konate in rural villages and Lanciné Conde in the capital city, Conakry. DJOLIBA CROSSING is the story of one such trip, giving the reader a first-person perspective on everything from religious ceremonies and social events in rural villages on the banks of the Djoliba River to political conflict and riots in the city.
DJOLIBA CROSSING is a rich and poetic book, with hand-drawn, visually-engaging artwork throughout, mostly focused on the musicians and dancers themselves. The author’s love for his subject is clearly evident, and he has a vivid descriptive style that brings the reader directly into the scene he shows, whether he is discussing initiation rites, communal meals, or political upheaval. Perhaps the most moving passage of the book is a scene in which, trapped in his lodgings by rioting and gunfire in the city of Conakry, unable to get home, the author is making a recording of M. Conde’s flute music. “With the rise and fall of his notes, at times slow and tranquil, at others agitated and impassioned, this humble and kind man transported us…The troubles of the city were suddenly far away, lost in the sandstorm of time that only music could transcend.” Ethnographic and historic details add depth and context to the tale. Though there is not space for more than a brief look at the area’s history and culture, Kobrenski manages to communicate enough of the beauty of both to capture the reader’s interest and provide a door to further investigation and study. He also offers drum notations and a guide to some of the more prominent dance and music styles at the end of the book.
The sampling of information about an intricately-structured and gracious culture, with both ancient roots and branches extending into the modern world, will give more casual readers a taste of a different way of life, and will open the way to deeper study to those who are so inclined.
DJOLIBA CROSSING is an excellent and beautifully-crafted introduction to the world of Malinke music and dance, explaining its relationship to daily life and to ritual activity.