Music: Tariku—inheritors of Mandingo Ambassadors local mantle—play West African music Fri., Nov. 22

Tariku—which includes members of The Mandingo Ambassadors, including guitarist Mamady Kouyate and vocalist Aaron Greenberg—play Best Video Performance Space Friday, Nov. 22. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $15.

The music of Tariku is driven by the graceful and ebullient interlocking polyrhythms for which West African music has become famous. This is the region musicologists credit with the roots of jazz, blues, funk, and hip hop, and that sonic DNA is clearly audible in the playing of percussionists Mangue Sylla and Matt Dean, and bassist Frank Brocklehurst. Coloring inside these percussive lines are the smooth, elegantly filigreed guitar lines of lead guitarist, Mamady “Jelike” Kouyate Also leader of The Mandingo Ambassadors), and the swirling yet unerringly precise cascades of young flute phenom Dylan McDonnell. Rounding out the melodic mix, Arouna Kouyate doubles on the kora- a 21 string calabash harp with a tone like the beautiful lovechild of a lute and an oud- and the vocals, whose flavor to Western ears might fall somewhere between Flamenco and the blues.

Our influences range from the almost operatic style of classical Mandè virtuosos like Kouyate Sory Kandia and Toumani Diabate, to the golden age West African jazz bands like Balla et Ses Balladins and Bembeya Jazz National. The result is a surprisingly versatile and accessible sound which can be both mild and sweet enough to serve as a unique alternative to a jazz combo or string quartet, or bold and lively enough to drive people onto the dance floor.

In Maninka, the language of the former Mandén Empire (c.1230-c.1630) “Tariku” means “chronicle”. It refers to the treasure trove of musical literature kept these 800 years by a hereditary caste of bards called the jelilu (singular, jeli).

At the same time that epics like The Song of Roland and The Poem of the Cid were being sung in the castles of medieval Europe, the Mandén tariku or “chronicles of Mandén” were being performed in the courts of medieval West Africa. These epics are rich with high adventure, great battles, palace intrigues, cunning sorceresses, stalwart warriors, and august kings. Basically, imagine Game of Thrones, but with the cast of Black Panther, and you’re halfway there.

Our musical and historical director, El Hajj Mamady “Jelike” Kouyate, holds the eminent position of Jeli Kuntigi (literally “Headmaster”) of the Society of Mandén Jelilu of the Americas. As the foremost authority in this hemisphere on his people’s musico-historical tradition, he has charged us with the task (no pressure) of elevating and popularizing this tragically underappreciated art form here in the west. In the spirit of this, we strive to present these timeless pieces in a way that will be at once accessible and entertaining for American listeners, and also painstakingly faithful to the tradition. The result is a performance that falls somewhere between classical and jazz, between storytelling and song, between ancient and modern.

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Music: The Mandingo Ambassadors play authentic West African music Fri., Aug. 2

Mamady Kouyate of The Mandingo Ambassadors.

The amazing Mandingo Ambassadors return to Best Video Film & Cultural Center on Friday, Aug. 2, for another sensational show of authentic West African music, led by guitarist Mamady Kouyate. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $10.

For those who have seen The Mandingo Ambassadors at Best Video in one of their two previous appearances here, know that they will be taking a somewhat different approach for this gig.

For this show, they are adding an element of West African Classical music to their usual West African Jazz repertoire. This will be a mostly acoustic gig featuring two new—to their performances at Best Video—traditional instruments, the kora and balafon.

The personnel will also be different, and as follows: Mamady “Djelike” Kouyate (guitar),  Arouna “Mamoudouba” Kouyate/ Aaron Latham Greenberg (Kora and Vocals), Dylan Olimpi McDonnell (Flute/Alto Sax), Andy Algire (Bala), Frank Brocklehurst (Bass), and Matt Dean (Percussion).

The show will include at least one (possibly two) performances of traditional Mande “Tariku” or oral histories, sung in the style of the court bards of the old Mali Empire (1230-1630 CE). Think “Game of Thrones”, but with about 100% less white people, and you’re halfway there. These will be performed in Maninka, but then translated into English for the few audience members whose Maninka may be a little rusty.

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Music: The Mandingo Ambassadors—this time with horn section—play afternoon benefit concert for guitarist Mamady Kouyate Sun., May 12, at 3 PM

The Mandingo Ambassadors, led by Guinean guitarist Mamady Kouyate, play Best Video Performance Space on Sunday, May 12. The afternoon show starts at 3 PM and the cover is $10. This show is a benefit for guitarist Mamady Kouyate, who needs to raise funds for an emergency trip to his native country of Guinea in Africa.

This show will feature an expanded version of the group that played Best Video in March. Along with the two guitarists, bassist, drummer, percussionist, and vocalist who played last time, The Mandingo Ambassadors will be joined by their horn section for this show. So if you enjoyed that show—and it was impossible not to—expect an even more powerful rendition of authentic African dance music this time!

An African jazz band with beats to make chairs obsolete and melodies to put your mind at ease! At their Connecticut club debut at Best Video in March, The Mandingo Ambassadors filled the packed house with joy!!

The Mandingo Ambassadors was founded in New York City by griot-guitarist Mamady Kouyaté in 2005. As a veteran of the great orchestras of the golden age of Guinean dance bands, Kouyate is a living library of musical science inherited from his ancestors and from a half century of experience as an arranger, band leader, accompanist and soloist.

The band for this show will be: Mamady Kouyate (lead guitar), Mamady Kourouma (rhythm guitar), Nick Cudahy (bass), Andy Algire (drums), Jocelyn Pleasant (percussion), Seny Tatchol Camara (percussion), Aaron Latham Greenberg (vocals), Eudy Fernandez (trumpet), and Oran Etkin (sax and clarinet).

ABOUT THE BENEFIT: Since he arrived in this country 20 years ago, guitarist Mamady “Djelike” Kouyate has sent every spare cent he has made back to his family in Guinea to help build them a house. Construction had begun, and was progressing well, but a few weeks ago, a hurricane leveled everything. Now his family of over twenty people are crammed into inadequate (even by Guinean standards) temporary lodgings, and the Guinean government is threatening to repossess the plot on which the house is built unless Mamady himself travels to Guinea to personally plead his family’s case. In order to make the government’s deadline, he must leave by May 15th, but he can’t afford the $1800 airline ticket on his own. All the money taken at the door and the donation vase will go to helping Mamady Kouyate afford the round trip plane fare to Guinea.

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Music: The Mandingo Ambassadors, led by Guinean guitarist Mamady Kouyate, to play authentic African dance music Fri., Mar. 22

Mamady Kouyate of The Mandingo Ambassadors.

The Mandingo Ambassadors, led by Guinean guitarist Mamady Kouyate, play Best Video Performance Space Friday, Mar. 22. The show starts at 8 PM and tickets are $10. Advance tickets are available through BrownPaperTicket.com.

An African jazz band with beats to make chairs obsolete and melodies to put your mind at ease! Check out NYC’s magnificent Mandingo Ambassadors in their CT debut at this last of the old school video stores!!!

The Mandingo Ambassadors was founded in New York City by griot-guitarist Mamady Kouyaté in 2005. As a veteran of the great orchestras of the golden age of Guinean dance bands, Kouyate is a living library of musical science inherited from his ancestors and from a half century of experience as an arranger, band leader, accompanist and soloist.

Mamady Kouyaté carried this heritage with him to New York where he has collaborated with members of the West African diaspora and Western musicians to continue the great tradition and sound of Guinean Afro-jazz.

Since the summer of 2008 the group has been in residence at Barbes, performing every Wednesday night at this well-known Brooklyn venue. In addition, they have performed at many clubs, events and festivals including Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Celebrate Brooklyn, and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

In a review of a show at Barbès in 2008, New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff wrote:

The music of the Mandingo Ambassadors has been structured to make you feel good. It puts dazzling vocal and guitar patterns over a rhythm section that is like a perfect system: a locked drum groove, much of it played on high-hat cymbal and drum rims; soft bass lines that fall short or start late, or leave gaps in a run of notes; fingerpicked rhythm guitar notes like clear fizz. In the small, square backroom of Barbès on Wednesday — as it will be next Wednesday and for Wednesdays to come — the music sounded loud and light and unfailingly right…

It could have gone on forever, and that was a nice thought.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.