The dununba is an event that belongs to a family of about thirty rhythms and dances, aptly referred to as “the dance of the strong men.” These are day-long feats of endurance by the strongest men of the village.
These rhythms originated in the region of Guinea traditionally known as Hamana. This region is located in the Kouroussa prefecture of central Guinea, roughly where the Niandan and Niger Rivers meet.
According to Famoudou Konaté, in Hamana these rhythms are called dunun fö or simply dunun, but the usage of the word dununba to refer to both the family of rhythms and the dance that accompanies it has become quite ubiquitous in recent years. (see Mamady Keïta, A Life for the Djembé, p. 60). For the sake of clarity, I’ve chosen to use the more familiar term dununba throughout this article.
Dunun rhythms are felt in 12/8 time, and are recognizable by their characteristic off-beat kenkeni phrase and the short “basa-tin bada-ba” signal:
Below is a short demonstration of the rhythm Bando Djeli. Listen for signal at the start, and how the kenkeni comes in:
About the Dununba
(excerpt from my book, Djoliba Crossing, page 64)
(excerpt from my book, Drawing on Culture, page 16)
Learning by Doing
In the above two images, we see young children emulating “the grown-ups” by performing the dance typically done by the men. Kids are very rarely taught with direct instruction. Rather, they observe and imitate.
(excerpt from my book, Drawing on Culture, page 74)
To learn more about Mande music and culture, check out my two books, Drawing on Culture and Djoliba Crossing: