Desert bluesman keeping tradition alive
You have to wonder how many more unknown great musicians there are wandering nomadically around the Sahel playing those ol' desert blues. Hot on the heels of the likes of Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa comes Niger's Mamane Barka. A true son of the desert born into a family of Toubou nomads, he began playing a two-string traditional instrument called the gourmi but is now a master of an extraordinary instrument called the biram. A five-string, harp-like instrument shaped like a long wooden boat, the biram is sacred to the Boudouma people, a tribe of fishing nomads from eastern Niger on the shore of Lake Chad, and can only be played by initiated masters. When Mamane learnt that there was only one elderly player of the instrument left and that the Badouma youth had little interest in putting in the years of practice to learn, he moved to Lake Chad and became the student of the old man, learning the instrument and its rituals and ancient, mystical songs. Today he is believed to be the only master of the biram in all Niger.
Biog by Nigel Williamson for WOMAD
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Feature in fRoots Jan 2009
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MySpace - www.myspace.com/mamanebarka
Official Website - www.mamanebarka.com