(My kamele n’goni that is!) We’re crossing this little desert and coming to you very soon! 🐪
The Kamele n’goni (or kamalengoni) is a modern variation of the traditional six string “Donso n’goni” harp of the hunter societies from the historic Wassoulou (Wasulu) region of Mali, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. The word “donso” can be translated as “hunting” or “hunter”. For this reason the Donso n’goni are also known as the “hunters harp”. They are ceremonial instruments, used by hunters to accompany traditional chanting and storytelling.
The Kamele n’goni is smaller, tuned a fourth higher, and has more strings (usually ten, twelve or fourteen) than the pentatonic Donso n’goni. “Kamele” can be translated as youth, so the Kamele n’goni is said the be the harp of the new generation, used to play modern arrangements rather than the traditional compositions. It is claimed to have been invented by musician Alata Brulaye around the 1950s-1960s in Mali. It became popular in the region and contributed to the rise of Wassoulou music in the 1970s and 1990s.
The n’goni is known to have existed since at least 1352, when Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller, reported seeing one in the court of Mansa Musa. The Donso n’goni was also mentioned by Richard Jobson in the 1620s, describing it as the most commonly used instrument in the Gambra (Gambia). He depicted it as an instrument with a great gourd for a belly at the bottom of a long neck with six strings.