Tribute to a young Burkinabé
Reijseger Sylla Gueye
“Janna is the recording on which the extraordinary improvising cellist Ernst Reijseger collaborates with Senegalese poet and instrumentalist Mola Sylla and percussionist Serigne C.M.Gueye on a program of songs and poetry that erases the borders between European and African traditions and creates something entirely new from the ruins. This could only be accomplished if each member of this trio brought the entirety of his musical heritage with him to the table and placed it there to be heard, pillaged, reshaped, and moulded by the fire of creation…
Each piece is somewhat extended. There are only eight selections here, totalling almost 70 minutes of playing time. Textures, dynamic, and tones are the musical concerns as they convey these gorgeous songs, poems, and stories without compromise or regard for ceremony. This is deeply, wonderfully, emotionally rendered exploratory music that cannot be classified, thank goodness.”
Thom Jurek, AllMusic
Ernst Reijseger and Mola Sylla met in Amsterdam in 1989 and started to play as a duo in 1991. In 2002 they became a trio, together with Serigne C.M. Gueye.
Mola Sylla came to Amsterdam in 1987 from Dakar (Senegal) with a group called Senemali and has lived in The Netherlands ever since. He sings mostly in Wolof, a language spoken by the majority of the Senegalese, along with French, the administrative language.
Mola Sylla was raised with singing. His father was muezzin and his mother, born close to the border of Mali, was brought up with storytelling through song.
Sylla was raised as a muslim, but was sent to a Catholic school for his education. Due to his love for singing, he eagerly volunteered to sing in the choir, where he sang along with the Christian liturgy. Even as a boy, Sylla did not care about the separation of religions, as long as he could sing.
In his songs and poems, Sylla shows great understanding of human nature and the ways of the world. He is a master in projecting his songs, and is a convincing entity on stage.
Master percussionist Serigne C.M. Gueye is descended from a line of storyteller-musicians called griots. He plays traditional Senegalese percussion, djembe of course, but also ‘leget’, made from a calabash, that is put upside down on a table, with a microphone inside. It’s played as a bass drum with the palm of the hand and has a high pitch when played with the knuckles, for example in Sàng Xale Man.
Gueye has a surprisingly light touch yet a full sound – poetic and with lots of detail.
Reijseger alternates between bass lines, bowed counter melodies and percussion on his cello. Gueye allows Reijseger to join him in unison in complicated rhythmical phrases. This honour is not taken for granted in the Senegalese music tradition. You have to earn it…
“Not bad, for a Toubab…”, Sylla and Gueye joke – Toubab meaning “white guy”
Ernst Reijseger is the ideal partner for this type of encounter. His joy of playing, his humour and dexterity are inseparable.
This album is a tribute to a young Burkinabé. She is Reijseger’s daughter Janna, born in Burkina Faso.
About the songs:
Sàng Xale Man is a story about a man and a woman who love each other. The man leaves for Europe. It’s cold. He calls out for his love: “Please come and cover me. Europe is too cold.”
Baba is about a man who sings to thank his parents for their education and for showing him a good path of life.
Noon (Enemy) I prefer an enemy who does not hide. Whether the snake bites or not, one should never offer it one’s hand.
Fier is a declaration of love and admiration to a woman. That which I love, I love. That which I do not love, give it to me and I will love it.
She invites the man, makes him comfortable and feeds him. She washed his feet. When he finally caresses her, her father comes in and sends him away.
Njaarelu Adiye is based on poems Cheikh Sadibou, Mohammeds grandson and by Cheikh Achmadou Bamba, the founder of Mouridism in Touba, Senegal. Mola Sylla: “Their writings truly move me. This is why I wish to dedicate this to the prophet Mohammed.”
Doxandéem is about the foreigner, that is to say the white man, the coloniser. When a foreigner arrives at a house, village or country, he is sometimes given so much importance that he can do anything he likes. Then the white man leaves and takes all the profit. And we stay and wait and wait. And you who are waiting for him, I hate you, because it is certain that he will never return.
Sicroula is about the bravery of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, who refused to declare to the colonisers that his god did not exist. They took him to exile for seven years, seven month, seven days and seven hours and found out he survived on a deserted island. They acknowledged his special power and brought him back to Senegal. They wanted to decorate him, but he asked for only one thing: a shelter from the sun to write his book.
Jangelma (Teach Me) is an indictment of the educational system in Senegal and the French language and history that is forced upon Africans. As long as we shall not be free to ‘think African’ and know our history and heroes, we shall not become Africans.