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Annonce Goooogle
Annonce Goooogle

Donso, on hunter’s tracks

Electro and Malinke music


09/07/2010 - 

It was in Paris, a long way from the African brush, that Donso learned about music. The band, which is named after a hunter’s harp-lute, sensitively blends electro with ancestral music from the Malinke empire. We met up with their producer, Pierre Antoine Grison.

Whatever the purists say, more than anything else, music springs from encounters. Donso is no exception to the rule. The group is the result of a meeting between two neighbours, Pierre Antoine Grison and Thomas Guillaume in 2004. “Thomas lived in the flat above me,” reminisces the producer.

At the time, Pierre Antoine, who had just signed up on the electro label Head Banger with his solo project KrazyBaldhead, was entering the hype zone like some take holy vows, fulfilling a vocation dating from his tender years at the Conservatoire. “When I was 6, my parents signed me up for a classic percussion class. Later on, I played some piano and then changed to the guitar and joined a group when I became a teenager”, he remembers.

“I returned to the piano with jazz, then discovered hip-hop and bought my first machines in 98.” Thomas came from a completely different world. Fascinated by African percussion instruments, he had been to Mali a decade earlier to learn the difficult skill of djembe playing. There he discovered the ngoni, an African harp-lute that exists in a number of forms, including the donso ngoni, a small travelling kora that Mandinka hunters take trekking with them. “The donso ngoni produces trance music with a sometimes incomprehensible mechanism,” explains Pierre Antoine Grison.

Oil and water

In 2004, the two neighbours gave their first concert. “It took us a while to hit the right balance and find the right mix. We weren’t looking to sit African vocals on top of a house tempo like some people were doing, because that’s like oil and water. You can put them both in the same glass but they won’t mix!” he says.

The arrival of Gédéon Papa Diarra on vocals, followed by Guimba Kouyaté on guitar and djele ngoni, a high-pitched lute-harp, opened up new horizons for the duet. “Thomas had met them in Mali but they both live here. Through hard work, we managed to find a sound that marries electro and acoustics, without ever giving the impression that one is stronger than the other. It sits in the middle ground,” explains the man who produced practically everything in his own home.  

The singer Mamani Keita, a friend of Gédéon, recorded all the backing voices 2006. The kora player Ballaké Sissoko came to place a few crystal-clear notes at the end of Baara, while the voluble pianist Cheick Tidiane Seck let himself be seduced by Dono’s improvisations, toasting no less than 18 completely different synthesizer tracks for Mogoya, the number the label chose as a basis for its remix competition (with around 100 contenders and three winners).

From KrazyBaldhead to Donso

“I don’t get the feeling that there’s a big gap between my personal project and Donso,” explains Pierre Antoine. “KrazyBaldhead started up because of hip-hop and incorporates electro. Hip-hop comes from Malian music. They have the same roots, and go the same direction, only the colours are different. And each project has its own tools. The sampler for KrazyBaldhead, and the synthesizer and rhythm boxes for Donso, which is above all a musicians project. When we play live, there are four of us.” A difference then, but not a big gap.


  par DONSO

Donso Donso. (Comet Records/Because) 2010

Live performance on 17 September at the Café de la Danse (Paris) to be confirmed.