From the relentless creativity of 1992 Real World Recording Week came a project as joyous as it was powerful — and unusual. Farafina, a percussion ensemble from an arts school in the landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso. Two producers: iconic American-Panamanian jazz drummer Billy Cobham, of Miles Davis fame, and Daniel Lanois, Canadian uber-producer for such A-listers as U2, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel. Over two days —Cobham for Day One, Lanois for Day Two— Farafina’s mighty tapestry of textures, their gigantic fusion of melody, harmony and rhythm, walloped the English county of Wiltshire, entrancing all who heard it.
The story-songs Farafina unleash on percussion including djembe, tama and the thundering doumdouba bass drum; on flute, kora, soukou violin and two wooden balafon xylophones, were co-written by the many ensemble members, each of them steeped in the ancient art of the Manding griots. Vocals, too, are shared, weaving melodically alongside flute and kora and on the dreamy ‘Dounounia’, the flugelhorn of David DeVries and the kit drums of Billy Cobham (who also guests on the explosive ‘Bi Mousso’). Call-and-response is frequent. Communication —between musicians, musicians and producers, the music and the listener— is key. Dancing is inevitable.