Second day of this fever which has kind of rendered me a bit useless during the day. Unfortunate, as my time here is short. Back to New York tomorrow night... wow wow! Despite feeling under the weather, I could not pass up the opportunity to go and hear Group Fogni last night at Just 4 You. You guessed it; group name not highlighted because I can't find any web info about them. Bummer. I'll fill in what I can.
Group Fogni seems to have a revolving cast of members as I've seen there videos on Senegalese and Gambian tv and only recognized a few of the folks playing last night from the videos. But no matter; this was the real deal. My last day in Gambia 02-03 I bought a pile of cassetes because I wanted to hear some of the high-life (westernized music). I'd been in so deep with the traditional drumming that I hadn't checked out any high-life in two months. Not so this time, as I've led something of a double life. Traditional drums by day, m'balax by night, etc. One of the cassettes I happened to pick up was by Group Fogni and they blew me away.
They are Jolas (see previous posts for info about Jola culture), so their sources for creating high-life are different than Wolof m'balax or Mandinka/Bambara afro-manding. The drummer was killing; the patterns he played are totally different than anything else I've heard here. Its fitting that I caught these guys towards the end of my time here; they played a few weeks ago while I was in Gambia, so I'd been waiting for this day for awhile now. They did not disappoint. One critique, though, that extends beyond Group Fogni to all the high-life music I've heard these five weeks. Take it easy on the synthesizers, people! At what point did horns become unfashionable and extraneous in this part of the world? If you listen to high-life before the 80s, horns are all over these groups, usually wonderfully out-of-tune. But every band that I've heard in a month (around fifteen groups) has at least one synth, in Group fogni's case two! I can deal with synths if deployed carefully, but to a fault every example here seems to be of the reverb-drenched, island-(un)cool variety. Why folks? Perhaps because its easier to have a synth player cover three horn parts? Perhaps because people here genuinely think it sounds hipper than horns? I'm at a loss.... oh well, nonethless, enjoy Group Fogni's burning rhythms and killer vocalist/dancers!