DER Documentary

Siaka, An African Musician

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by Hugo Zemp
color, 79 min (plus 18 min of extras), 2005

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Siaka Diabaté is a musician at Bouaké, the second largest town in the Côte d'Ivoire. Through his mother's family he is Senufo, but through his father's ancestry he considers himself a Mande griot. He is a multi-talented professional musician, and for the local festivals plays five instruments: the Senufo and Maninka balafons, the kora harp, the dundun drum and the electric guitar. This film shows Siaka playing in the group led by Soungalo Coulibaly before his death in 2004, including the use of jembe drums, which we also see being made.

Using long continuous shots that give priority to the music and to what Siaka and Soungalo have to say, this documentary introduces the audience to a fascinating world of urban music that incorporates traditional songs and dances by griots. Shot on site a few weeks before rising of civil war, during various festivities, this film presents a living portrait of this lovable and highly skilled musician working in a traditional environment, adding another dimension to the pleasure of seeing and hearing him during his international tours.

This DVD includes the extra features:
Interview with Soungalo Coulibaly (9 min)
Soungalo and His Group Playing for a Wedding (10 min) Watch on YouTube

“Always keeping to his favorite method, the ethnomusicologist films alone, avoids unnecessary comments and favors long sequence-shots, which, better than any other device, allows the viewer to become part of the action and to absorb it.” — Vincent Zanetti, Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles, 19, 2006
“The film follows Siaka closely as he plays at different festivities and rehearsals. The flow of the film is magnificent in these scenes. There is a feeling of floating and living in the moment of the sequences. No pressure is felt and the camera is clearly at the heart of the action. ...There is an easiness of communication between the researcher and his informants.” — Aleksi Oksanen, The World of Music, 49(3), 2007
“Zemp's beautifully crafted film was shot on location in Bouaké in July and August 2002. ...This documentary is not a biopic but an in-depth look into how a talented young musician gets by in Africa today.” — July Strand, Ethnomusicology, 53 (2), 2009
“Zemp is a wonderful filmmaker, and his techniques of ethnographic film storytelling are excellent… I would highly recommend this film for ethnomusicological or 'world music' appreciation courses.” — Troy Belford, Anthropology Review Database

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