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Kokanko Santo, Ngoni Artist

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2014

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Recital Hall, Simons Center of the Arts

Thursday, March 13th, 7:30 pm

College of Charleston welcomes the songbird from ancient Malian hunters.

Join us for a rare night of music with Kokanko Sata Doumbia – one of Mali’s most prominent Wasulu Songbirds, and the only known female to have mastered the kamelen ngoni (boy’s harp).  Kokanko’s original songs will enchant you.  Her versions of traditional hunters’ songs of the West African Savannah will bring you glimpses of the music which graced the Rice Belt of early America in the 1700′s – from Charleston to New Orleans.

Kokanko was raised as an accompanist musician – playing gourd drums and percussive scrapers for other musicians.  Though coming from a powerful lineage – her father is an honored blacksmith, and her mother a jeli.

For Kokanko is a “Bird of Wasulu” – a songbird from the ancient Malian hunters’ culture – whose job is to offer guidance through music and sing for the well-being of the community.  In the words of Toumani Diabate’s producer Lucy Duran, Kokanko’s work makes public “the voice of hidden women’s discourse (hereditary songsmith) – Kokanko knew no Malian man would teach her more specifically,  how to play the “boy’s harp” – the kamelen ngoni.  (The ngoni came across the Atlantic during the slave trade; its sound eventually transformed to the banjo and blues in the U.S.)  So she built her own, and taught herself how to play.  First learning the traditional songs of her village, praising particular hunters and Allah, Kokanko quickly developed her own style at once tender and unflinching.  These songs are of the strength of women, relationships between the sexes, and the importance of tolerance and understanding.



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