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
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