The word Moribayassa means 'jumble' or 'mess'. Mamady Keita's sleevenotes for his album "Afo" describes it thus:
In order to give thanks for a wish that has been granted, the participants must dress bizarrely and make a complete circle of the village as they dance Moribayassa.
His awesome book A Life for the Djembe goes further:
Moribayassa is the name of a very old rhythm and dance, which, to this day, plays a highly unusual role in the life of a woman. If a woman has a big problem, such as illness in the family or child-lessness, she will at first pursue all the opportunities for help in the village, even consulting a fetish maker. When she has exhausted all of these resources, as her last hope, she takes a vow: "When this huge difficulty is over, I will dance Moribayassa." Between this decision and the dance, years may pass. This vow is so significant that a woman can only take it once in her life. Even today, the rhythm is played exclusively for this joyful dance of a woman who has overcome a difficult situation. For this dance, the woman dresses and shows herself in a way that she normally would never dare to do; she wears old, torn clothes; shows her naked legs; and behaves like a crazy woman who is allowed to break all taboos. In this way, she circles the village three or seven times, singing and dancing, accompanied by one or more musicians. The women of the village follow her and sing, too. After that, the dancer changes her clothes and buries the old rags under a mango tree. In my village, Balandugu, this mango tree is called Moribayaasa.
The energy this song embodies is unstoppable joy; it's difficult to play it slowly, as the rhythm just seems to have a life of its own and will speed up accordingly, no doubt due to the Dun Dun parts being so simple and fun to play. Djembe players must hold on to their hats and fly!
Intro: Each part enters one at a time 130bpm 4/4 ||:1 & 2 & | 3 & 4 & :|| Bell 1 x.x.x. || x.x.x.x. | x.x.x.x. || x2, then add Kenkeni: +Sangban G.G.G. || G...g... | g.G.G.G. || ("I'd like some fish and chips, I'd like...") Bell 2 || x.x.x.x. | x.x.x.x. || x2, then add Dununba: +Kenkeni || K...K... | K...K... || ("Beans, beans, beans, beans") Bell 3 x. || x.x.x.x. | x.x.x.x. || x2, adding Djembe flams on 2nd time: +Dununba D. || D.....D. | D.....D. || ("Some fish, some fish") Djembe Intro || ........ | ..s.s.s. || then Djembes 1+2 start with Sangban: Djembe 1 || B.OOB.S. | B.OOB.S. || ("Strawberry ice cream") Djembe 2 || S..SS.OO | S..SS.OO || ("Fly away, Kuku!") The Dun Dun parts can be simplified for children/novices, or learned first on Djembe: 130bpm 4/4 ||:1 & 2 & | 3 & 4 & :|| Bell 1(alt) ...... || ....x... | x....... || +Sangban G.G.G. || G....... | ..G.G.G. || ("I'd like some fish and chips, I'd like...") /Djembe O.O.O. || O...X... | X.O.O.O. || [X = clap] Bell 2 (optional) || x.x.x.x. | x.x.x.x. || Bell 2 (easier) || x...x... | x...x... || ("Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese") +Kenkeni || K...K... | K...K... || ("Beans, beans, beans, beans") /Djembe || O...O... | O...O... || ("Peas, peas, peas, peas") Bell 3 (opt.) x. || x.x.x.x. | x.x.x.x. || +Dununba D. || D.....D. | D.....D. || ("Some fish, some fish") /Djembe B. || B.....B. | B.....B. || Dununba Solo: This interacts with dancers movements at the end of their routine. It's not played when the Djembes are doing their solo (see below), as it would go across the 12-bar structure. Count "and One, and Two, ..., and Six, and Seven vodkas and lime!" or "and One, and Two, ..., and Six, and Seven apples and pears!" (kids' version) Bell 3 x. || x.x.x.x. | x.x.x.x. || +Dununba D. || D.....D. | D.....D. || + +Dununba || D.....D. | D.....D. || + +Dununba || D.....D. | D.....D. || + Bell 3 x. || xx.x.xx. | x.x.x.x. || +Dununba || DD.D.DD. | D.....D. || Djembe Solo: Signal || S.S.S.S. | ........ || rlrl l l r r r f Djembes Section A || BOOB.S.B | B.O.O.s. || + Djembes || s....... | ........ || (x4) f r r r r r r rl Djembes Section B || s.B.B.B. | B.B.B.OO || + r r r rlrlr Djembes || O..Z..O. | ..SOOSS. || + Djembes || ........ | ........ || (x4) Sections A and B are each played four times, while Dun duns and other Djembe players continue with the Main Rhythm. During the three long rests at the end of Section B, intrepid Djembe players take turns to add this flourish: Djembes || .o.OOO.O | OO.OO... || If possible the initial flam can be a quick triplet (roll 3)! The fourth repeat of Section B has everyone playing Bass instead, to call everyone to a halt ready for the Break: Djembes || B...B... | B...B... || Djembes || b and so on...
The joyous song comes early on in the piece, before the Djembe solo. It consists of the word "Moribayassa", alternating with people's names called: "Nada Malcolm" meaning words to the effect of "Malcolm has come to play Morribayassa". Friends and respected persons can also be mentioned, for example to honour a mentor or teacher, even if they are not physically present at the time. After the leader starts singing, all other drumming stops and everybody claps (just on beat 1) to give the voices more chance to be heard. We use the lead singer mentioning their own name as a cue to return to the drumming with the three flammed slaps+Sangban like in the Intro, except the Dununba and Kenkeni join in altogether as well.
The epic Break section is incredibly complex, lasting for many minutes with intricate improvised-sounding patterns played in unison by all players as if they are magically making it up on the spot. It's way too involved to notate fully here - the keen student should learn from Mamady's recordings and/or a patient teacher, just as we have done. It took our experienced players from Vitae Drummers one year to grasp, and we still haven't fully mastered the last section. Good luck!
Key to notation
Traditional Guinean rhythm from
Mamady Keita, taught by
Malo Sonko and
Vitae Drum Circle.
(notated by Malcolm Smith on 2008-07-10, solos added on 2008-10-20)