Resonance: Musical Heritage of La Francophonie Previous   Next


Music and Power

Hunters' instruments
Ethnic group: Peul et Bamanan
Canadian Museum of Civilization

Video Excerpt

  Hunters' Brotherhood / Photo: Musée national du Mali


The Wassoulou region, which straddles the border between Mali and Guinea, is known for its solid musical tradition. The hunters' brotherhood in that region is a society that has initiation rites, a strong hierarchy and quasi-military discipline. Music is played at gatherings of hunters, where there are power struggles between the great hunters themselves, then between musicians and hunters. In Mali, since hunting is an activity reserved for men, only men may play the hunters' musical instruments. The music essentially describes the hunt and praises the great hunters who venture into the unknown by confronting wild animals. The musician tells the story, and a person may mime each stage, including the approach of the prey, and the way the animal moves and senses danger. The nobleness of the animal facing death is also praised, as is the bravery of the hunter facing danger. A harp-lute plays the main melody and another accompanies it. One of the musicians is also the singer.