NAME OF RHYTHM: Dunumba, Dununba, Dounumba,

COUNTRY: Hamanah (a canton in the Kouroussa Prefecture, Upper Guinea)

OTHER NAMES: The following are names of different rhythms commonly agreed to be part of the family of rhythms known as Dununba:

                Bada                            Balan-sonde
                Bando Djei                      Bandogialli
                Bolo Konondo                    Demosoni Kelen
                Dunun Gbe (Doundoumbe)          Donaba
                Gberedu                         Gbunkundo
                Kadan                           Konowule(n) (1 and 2)
                Koudindoundoun             Kuraba Don
                Nantalomba                       Taama
                Takosaba                        Takonani



The word "dunumba" or "doundumba" describes a type of dance that is popular in Upper Guinea in the Kankan, Siguiri and Kourousa regions, but its roots are to be found in Hamanah, a canton of the prefecture of Kourousa. It is also called "the Dance of the Strong Men". The names of its various rhythms, of which there are a good twenty, are taken from their places of origin, from the names of the people they portray or to whom they are dedicated, from the characteristics of their structure or from the way the performers appear during the dance.

The "Dance of the Strong Men" as danced by the Malinke of Hamanah occupies a position that makes it more of a social ritual than an amusement, although this aspect is also not ignored. It takes place in the Bara, the space for dancing that every village possesses and which has a large tree, either a Kapok or Mangrove, planted in the center. The circles of men or boys are formed around the tree, each circle representing a social or age group (kare). The Baranti, the masters of the Bara form the group that assumes responsibility for the smooth running of the festivities. They are the first to dance, and no-one else can use the Bara without their agreement. Although the Dunumba is reserved for men as its name indicates, women could take part by dancing at one side or by coming to the centre to enliven the atmosphere.

The heirarchies between the Kara ar between individuals are given their expression in the dance, with personal conflicts being also regulated in a formalized manner with blows of the Manin Fosson, a riding crop woven from hippopotamus skin, to the sound of the drums. The Baratingi, the eldest youths of the village, demonstrate their courage by provoking their younger colleagues, the Baradogono, to the sound of the dunumba.

The circles that correspond to each of these two groups are laid concentrically around the tree planted in the middle of the Bara. The leader carries a decorated hatchet called Djende and a Manin Fosson. When one of the younger boys wishes to join a group of older boys, he moves out of his own circle and dances backwards. He meets the leader of the other groups who asks him"The way!", to which he answers "It is marked on the back!". A reciprocal flagellation then follows, that leads either to the boy's acceptance or rejection by the older group when the men who are present, appreciating the boy's courage, put a stop to the test.

Certain healers also attributed therapeutic virtues to the dance through its creation of states of trance and hypnosis.

Important collective decisions were taken before or after the great Dunumba, since almost the whole community would be gathered together at such times.

Dunumba is also the name of the largest of the drums, and it is just as indespensable for sustaining the enthusiasm of the dancers as it is of the players. The Dunun are drums whose cylindrical barrel is covered by a skin at each end. A metal bell is fixed above the barrel, which is placed horizontally. The drummer strikes one of the skins with a large stick that is held in one hand while with the other he strikes the bell with a metal strip or bolt. There are always three of these drums in the regions discussed here, and they are, from largest to smallest, Dunumba, Sangban, and Kenkeni.

The ideal ensemble in which the Dunumba can be performed is made up of three dunun, to which two djembes are added for the accompanyment of one or more solo djembes. (Excerpts from Hamanah liner notes, Mamady Keita. This CD is ESSENTIAL for anyone interested in Dunumba.)

Comes from Hamanah (region of Kouroussa). Here the dunun are always played in threes; kenkeni, sangba, dununba. It is the last which leads while the djembe accompanies. The importance of equilibrium between dunun is fundamental here. There are more than fifty rhythms of this family of which the variations play on the length of the phrases and the cycles of measures. The one in this recording has a cycle of two measures. At its origin, a war dance in which boys of different age groups confront each other armed with whips: it is called "dance of the strong men". Today it is practiced more pacifically in all festival occasions, and even women take part. (Wossolon)

Dununba, the "Dance of the Strong Men" is a very old dance, performed, as its name suggests, only by men. There are approximately 20 Dununba rhythms, each with its corresponding dance. Originally this repetoire was known only to the Malinke-Hamanah, but today it has become very popular and is regularly performed by other people, such as the Susu of Guinea and the Wolof of Senegal, although in a greatly modified style.

The different rhythms have some features in common: the tempo is somewhat slow, the rhythmic cycle is 12 pulses and the kenkeni always plays only one rhythm: ( . . o . o o ). The rhythmic figures played by the soloist are all similar, but they must be coordinated nonetheless to the different phrase lengths of the dances, some of which may reach eight cycles, and to the steps of the dancers.

Before the festival, the drummers assemble in front of the house of the djembe-fola (soloist) and announce the beginning of the festival by playing a few moments of the rhythm. After a short pause, they start again. This is a signal for all the unmarried girls in the village to assemble at the village square (Bara) in order to accompany the drummers with their singing and handclapping. As the drummers are playing the third time through the rhythm, they proceed to the square. Once they arrive, they build a small fire and place their instruments in front of it to heat the heads. Any girls who have not arrived by this time are punished by five light lashes on the legs.

Meanwhile, the Barrati-s have arrived. These are thirty to forty men, all big and strong, who determine and control the development of the event. They are masters of the dance square, they have instruments and retain the privilege of the first dance. The title of Barrati may conferred only within certain families. If other men than the present Barranti-s wish to become new Barranti-s, they must organize themselves inta a group at a Dununba festival and advance on the present Barrati-s. A veritable battle follows, using whips of hippopatomous hide. If the provocatuers win, they are pronounced the new Barrati-s.

When the music starts up again (after warming the drum heads), the Barrati-s begin the dance, arranging themselves in two lines. Brandishing a decorated hatchet (Gende) in the right hand, and a hippo-hide whip (Manimfosson) in the left, the dancers advance slowly, in step, towards the drummers. Once they arrive, each Barrati in turn dances solo, showing his best form in order to impress the girls assembled behind the drummers. Afetr this, other men may ask permission to dance as well.

Throughout the entire festival, one strange looking man dressed in a monkey skin dances around the perimeter of the dance square.

Dununba is performed today at all large festivals. (Rhythmen Der Malinke)

This is a rhythm from Guinee which means "dance of the strong men". The dance, which is very acrobatic, gives the men a chance to express their bravery and courage in front of their betrothed as well as the village elders; they strike their bodies with a riding crop made from animal muscle. (Drame)

"We have a dance we call dounouba. It is for people who are threatening each other or are in an intense rivalry. After elders, family members, and friends have tried to counsel the disputants to no avail, the dounouba ceremony is held in the village square. The two men who are at odds each take a stick. The stick is round, about three quarters of an inch in diameter, and reaches from the ground to about the hip in length. The men face each other. The musicians play the drums with very exciting rhythms designed to bring out the stored-up aggressiveness in the feuding parties. The men engage in ritual combat, striking at each other and defending themselves with their sticks. In front of everyone else in the village, they settle their differences. The rest of the village will be left in peace, since not an ounce of their hostility remains unexpressed.

"Some national dance troupes in West Africa have presented thisdance in pantomime fashion to foreign audiences and called it the dance of the strong man. Originally though, it was not a spectacle, but a practical means of bringing real conflicts to a climax and to an end." (Diallo and Hall, The Healing Drum, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont 1989, p 111.)

a) social/age groups (men) - there are five but I am missing one: barati (eldest), baradomo, ..., baratingi(youths), baradogono (boys) [source Famoudou Konate]

b) the key parts are the dunumba and kenkeni, the jembe soloist essentially marking the dance transitions. we would call these parts off-beat, which = is why Westerners have such a hard time playing these rhythms, even though t= he beat is strongly marked by the dancers' steps. to complement the kenkeni rhythmic figure, and without going into notation details, the dunumba evolves around a central theme (such as .oo.xx.oo.oo.oo.xx.xx.oo), switching to continuous (.oo.oo.oo.oo) during the échauffement. aside f= rom set parts, there are many individual variations where the dunumba player himself demonstrate his strength. (Yves)


Bada my understanding is this is not a rhythm as such, rather a phase (échauffement) or signal the players use to enlarge the cir= cle when it has become to crowded and they can't properly play [source Delmundo Keita] (Yves)

Balan-sonde: is an exception among the Dununba rhythms, for it may be played as part of the circumcision festival, during which the women may also dance. While the men dance the customary Dununba steps, the women dance the steps for Soli. Balan is the name of a village in the region of Kouroussa; sonde means "robbers". The residents of this village are jokingly called robbers. (Rhythmen Der Malinke)

Bando Djei: Amidst all the praises addressed to N'na Dodo, the goddess known as Nakouda or Koudaba is now honored. Worshipped by the people of Hamanah, mother Kouda is particularly invoked during the feast of Boleh pond in Baro, a village situated between Kouroussa and Kankan. This is the occasion to thank her with offerings for wishes granted or to implore her for success in the future. (Mogobalu)

Bandogialli: is the name of a type of monkey with a white tail. For this dance the dancers a white collar with a white tuft, symbolizing the white tail of the monkey. With quick up and down movements of the shoulders, they impart a quick rocking motion to the collar. Bandogialli is danced exclusively by the Barrati-s. (Rhythmen Der Malinke)

Bolo Konondo: The title of this rhythm describes hand movements of the dance. Bolokonondo means "nine hands". (Rhythmen Der Malinke) Literally, nine fingers. This rhythm is called this in reference to the structure and to the movements of the dance. (Hamanah)

Demosoni Kelen: This is translated by "a young girl". The players apostrophise the girls with allusive mockery of a decidely sexual character. The girls pay them back in their own kind, casting doubt frequently on the quality of the percussionist's sticks. (Hamanah)

Dunun Gbe: is the oldest know Dunumba; Famoudou says "that it is the mother of all the Dunumba's variations". (Hamanah)

Donaba: or Great Dancer, was the nickname for Maria Magbwe, a woman of Famodou's village, who was famed for her inventive qualities. A song that is dedicated to her says "Marianna, come out with a new dance for us!" (Hamanah)

Gberedu: Name of a canton of Hamanah (Hamanah)

Gbunkundo: expresses a fight, a blow to the head, with the dancers miming a fight. They strike each other as they dance the tests between the different age groups and often regulate personal problems in the same way; fatal accidents, however, often occured before independence. (Hamanah)

Kadan this is a ballet arrangement, not a traditional dunumba [source Famoudou Konate] (Yves)

Konowule(n) 1 is dedicated to a man who was very rich and strong. The djembefola has ensured that this name will go down in history, as will that of a griot who sang for him that "it is thanks to your mother that you are what you are". (Hamanah)

Konowule(n) 2 a second rhythm dedicated to the powerful man.

Kuraba Don: is a sacred bush that is considered to be a god, and in front of which people come to make requests or vows of all sorts, dealing with family, money, business, the hunt....Sacrifices are carried out. "As soon as you are in it, says Famoudou, your body begins to feel something..." The procession to the bush is carried out to this rhythm. (Hamanah)

Nantalomba: A song of provocation and insults of the Baratingi, the oldest of the young people in the village, toward the Baradogono, or younger ones. The youngest are compared to a spider with it's legs pulled off called Nantalomba to get them to fight. The Baratingi consider themselves to be the true owners of the Bara (space for dancing) and the challenges between the different age groups occur when the dance takes place. (Mogobalu)

Taama: means to walk like the people of from Hamanah and is the name of a rhythm that depicts this. (Hamanah)

Takosaba: goes with the dancers steps as they perform the same movement four times at the start of the dance (Hamanah) The title of this rhythm refers to three significant movements done in the first three repetitions of the 12 pulse rhythm (Rhythmen Der Malinke)

Takonani: literally "take four times". Like Takosaba, this is a reference to the structure of the dance. (Hamanah)



  For Nantalomba:     Nantalomba, eee
                      I badaban ikoudoula banankou too do woo
                      Ido wolo kognouma eee
                      Oh you, Nantalomba
                      Since you have stuffed yourself with manioc paste
                      Dance now as you must!           (Mogobalu)
  For Bando Djei:     N'na Dodo nin ne, Bomba la Dodoo
                      N'na Dodo nin ne, N'na gbadon Dodoo
                      Ina moyi ni lolo le laa
                      Baatemah loloh
                      Djitemah loloh
                      Ibaa kouma, koule kouma kodjon
                      Ibi imakoun, koule djanda ni founoukeya Doo
                      Kouma ye sondja le dij
                      Makoun kodo te lon
                      Keren-kononi kassi daa
                      N'na konda eee
                      N'na konda ya naa
                      Hamanah dia daa!
                      Noulou nani donkan ne ma eee!
                      Sila yeleni bandan ne la eee!
                      You, mother Dodo, Dodoo of the great house
                      You, mother Dodo, cook, Dodo
                      Your mother gave birth to a star
                      A star in the midst of the waters
                      A Star in the depths of the waves
                      If you speak, they say you talk too much
                      If you are silent, you who are young, they say you
                      are pretentious
                      Words become suffering for you
                      But the depths of silence cannot be measured
                      Keren-Kononi* has sung
                      O mother Kouda
                      Let mother Kouda come
                      The living is good in Hamanah
                      It is for the dancing that we, we came
                      The path leads to the Kapok** tree
                      *  a small bird famed for its chattering
                      ** the Kapok tree is often planted in the centre of
                         the Bara or space for dancing    (Mogobalu)
       He he iyala he he nimba dibee
       Berema he he
       Aiwuliyo Denbalu
       Iye Dennunu Mabarana
       Aiwuliyo Denbalu Fabarawuli
       Aiwarabasama Iye Molu
       Aiwarabasama Samaden Warabaye
       Aiwarabasama Warabaye         (Nimba)
       Ay ay we oh, amana diella bara nan nan dun dun sebego (Mimouna)