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Published on 30 May 2019
Tegere Tulon: Handclapping Songs from Mali Film by Professor Lucy Durán and Moustapha Diallo
Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté possesses one of the most beautiful, versatile, and expressive voices of West Africa. A jelimuso (female jeli or ‘griot’) from Mali, she has acquired a cult following as the charismatic singer of Trio Da Kali, an acoustic trio which was formed by Professor Lucy Durán and the Aga Khan Music Initiative specially to collaborate with the Kronos Quartet. She has received rapturous reviews for her work on Kronos and Trio Da Kali’s collaborative award-winning album Ladilikan and for her moving performances with Trio Da Kali, who have toured widely in Europe and the USA to critical acclaim.
Hawa’s latest musical project, Tegere Tulon, takes her back to her roots and forwards into the realm of composition. In 2018 she was commissioned by Kronos’ Fifty for the Future, which aims to expand the repertoire for young string quartets. Hawa decided to revisit the handclapping songs of her childhood, which were such formative experiences for her, and which are gradually dying out except in remote villages.
Performed exclusively by girls outdoors in a circle, usually on moonlit nights, the handclapping songs are normally very short, consisting of one or two phrases repeated in call and response, often involving counting, each one with its own dance. Children make them up spontaneously, using the rhythms of language to generate musical rhythm, with playful movements, some individual, some coordinated by the whole circle. Building on her own memories of the handclapping songs she used to do as a young girl in Kela, Hawa has created four new pieces in handclapping style, which she hopes will encourage Malians not to abandon this rich cultural heritage. The lyrics are humorous and poignant—they talk about the importance of family, the teasing relationship between kalime “cross-cousins” (a man’s children and his sister’s children are cross-cousins), a girl who loves dancing so much she falls into a well and then climbs out, and how long it takes to get to Funtukuru, her husband’s village, where she went to film handclapping.
Film by Professor Lucy Durán and Moustapha Diallo with editing help from Darryl Jones (darryljonesfilms.com)
Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté’s Tegere Tulon was commissioned as part of the Kronos Performing Arts Association’s Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, which is made possible by a group of adventurous partners, including Carnegie Hall and many others.