To sing? Or blow the flute? How about both? Yeah!
May 9, 2010 2:09 AM   Subscribe

When you think of African music, flutes may not be the first instruments that come to mind, but across West Africa there are some flute traditions that often involve a unique combination of vocalizing and blowing into the instrument, resulting in some amazing music that's a hella lotta fun to listen to. There are some nice examples on YouTube here, here, here and here.
posted by flapjax at midnite (16 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
And though the vibe and the instrument is very different, this music played on an overtone flute is also recommended.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:12 AM on May 9, 2010


This is so cool. Hot damn.

In that first video, when the xylophone-thing first comes in!

Hot damn.
posted by Rumpled at 2:19 AM on May 9, 2010


And though his technique doesn't involve vocalizing, this player, Yacouba Moumouni, from Niger, is excellent.

the xylophone-thing

Rumpled, that's a Balafon! Balafon! Balafon!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:30 AM on May 9, 2010


Beautiful. Thanks, Flapjax !
posted by nicolin at 2:32 AM on May 9, 2010


Looks like they've been watching a bit too much Jethro Tull ( :38 seconds in and 2:20, and beyond). Although much later in his career Ian did look at Northern Africa for some influences.
posted by Gungho at 5:25 AM on May 9, 2010


Looks like they've been watching a bit too much Jethro Tull

heh heh. That's funny. (I hope...)

Although much later in his career Ian did look at Northern Africa for some influences.

Um, much earlier in his career he looked to North America for some influences (00:50 and beyond, way beyond).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 AM on May 9, 2010


Yet another great post. Thanks!
posted by Wolof at 6:41 AM on May 9, 2010


I'm sure you could find lots of Youtube footage of Rahsaan Roland Kirk (who, along with many other jazz flautists, would sing and play - not to mention all the sax players - Trane, Pharoah Sanders, Ayler etc. who would sing and blow at the same time ) but here is one of the strangest. It's with John Cage (who never met Rahsaan!). About 3:00 in he starts up with the singing and fluting...I never missed a chance to see Rahsaan in the early-mid Seventies.
posted by kozad at 10:44 AM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


That link in the first comment is great. I am flabbergasted by the concept of an overtone flute! I get how it works, but just... wow! I would not have thought of that.
posted by Xezlec at 3:12 PM on May 9, 2010


I was aware of Ian's connection to Kirk, but still wonder if he was aware of the West African flute. So I sent Ian an email... Pending reply.
posted by Gungho at 5:07 PM on May 9, 2010


I was aware of Ian's connection to Kirk, but still wonder if he was aware of the West African flute.

Quite possibly not.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:18 PM on May 9, 2010


You might wanna fire off another email to ol' Ian, though, and ask him (for me) why he stood on one leg all the time. I always wondered if perhaps he was actually some species of waterfowl.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:20 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is great, it's no suprise that artist like Celia Cruz and Latin music was inspired by African culture based on that first link.
posted by nola at 8:38 PM on May 9, 2010


Grand pa Eliot, street performer in New Orleans uses this technique as well.
posted by nola at 8:47 PM on May 9, 2010


Yes, nola, that kind of vocal whoop while blowing blues harp goes way back, too. Though there's nothing else online that I know of offhand that I could link to here, I've got some tracks here and there on some blues and folk music compilations where this technique is featured, from various players. Historical recordings, from the 30s and such. It's really cool. And thanks for this link: I'd never heard of Grandpa Elliott, and he's effin great.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:02 PM on May 9, 2010


And though the vibe and the instrument is very different, this music played on an overtone flute is also recommended.

It's crazy to think how far back those older-than-tools instruments must go.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:32 AM on May 11, 2010


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