A Thousand Voices: I

This post is, at its core, about diversity, but to start with a more literal interpretation of the metaphor, let’s look at music. The link between shamanism and drumming goes way back, you might say, but there is a somewhat less recognized connection between all forms of music and the construction and alteration of realities.

Recently I was listening to my favorite tune by Mamani Keita, Kassi Koun and realized that I had no idea what the song was actually saying. I found this lack of understanding about something I have enjoyed so much, unpleasant, so I sought an understanding. I still don’t actually know what the song literally means, but I feel much better because almost immediately I found this article from 2006.

The article says that over a year Mamani worked with a French musician named Nicolas Repac, also known as the “White Wizard.” Anyone who read the article by Jason Louv that I suggested will be raising their eyebrows just a little at that, but it gets better.

Mamani says that Keitas were originally nobility, and traditionally weren’t allowed to sing for an audience. Reacting to Repac’s surprise that she can’t sing if they tour, Mamani says:

“No, that’s OK! Things are different now. Singing’s considered to be a profession. But when I was a kid I got a few beatings from my mother because she really didn’t want me to sing, even though her own mother had. I was brought up by my grandmother. I’m like her namesake and the Good Lord saw fit to give me her voice. My grandmother used to sing for people who were possessed. Her singing would help cure them of their troubles. In Bamako, she used to go round all the different neighbourhoods seeing people and I accompanied her wherever she went. I remember one day when I was a kid I was drawing water from the well and I started singing. My grandmother turned round and said ‘You’re going to have great adventures in life!’ She could see the destiny that lay before me even back then.”

If that’s not a description of an apprenticeship in a healing tradition then I don’t think I know what is.

The interview finishes by asking Mamani if she likes her own voice:

“You know, I never used to like my voice. But this time, I don’t know why, but I’ve got into the habit of playing this album when I go to sleep. That’s the first time this has happened. Before, I never wanted to hear myself sing!”

I tend to use Kassi Koun as a tool for balancing and protecting my mental/energetic space. For changing how I see reality, essentially.


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