El Taller Latino Americano
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TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY GYIL (AFRICAN MARIMBA) MUSIC OF WEST AFRICA

Bernard Woma - Gyil, vocals -- Valerie Naranjo - Gyil, djembe, vocals
Barry Olsen - kuar, trombone, vocals


The Gyil (pronounced JEE-lee) is made from wooden slats that are suspended, on a frame, over calabash gourds. Each gourd has several holes that support a mirlitron of spider's film that allows each bar to produce a column of buzzing air. Its timbre is somewhat like the Western marimba, yet "earthen" in character. Gyil music is to the ear as a kaleidoscope looks to the eye - a dazzling matrix of consistent yet ever-changing interlocking elements engaged in dynamic conversation. It's curious to find that such a powerful sound can soothe so much. People believe that the gyil's "woody" quality comes from a water vibration that physically balances the water in the bodies of humans and animals, able to heal maladies of the body mind and spirit. The hand drum Kuar is the gyil's most important musical mate. It is made from a large calabash with a hide of crockodile or alligator hide.

South of the Sahara Desert in West Africa there is a long standing tradition of gyil artistry. In the gyil tradition, every rural community has its own style of playing, its own tonality, and its own musical masters.

The only schools to cultivate this national treasure are private apprenticeships with the gyil master. This type of school is straightforward and strict. If you have a keen interest (and obliging parents who are willing to buy you a pair of instruments) you might consider "enrolling". If then, the community (via the master musician) evaluates you to be of high character, you are enrolled. If you are intelligent and observant, you will begin to grasp the complicated and extensive literature. If you're dedicated for a long time you'll be able to play, and if you play well enough, often enough, and for a long enough time, the master musician will allow you to play publicly. This musician is especially important as the initiator of the funeral, the Lobi's and Dagara's most important rite of passage. Among those who have traveled to perform and teach outside of the land of the Lobi and Dagara nations, only two have gained an international reputation. Bernard Woma is one of those.

He is also the state ceremonial Atunpan drummer, and the principle percussionist and soloist with the National Dance Company of Ghana. Valerie Naranjo is Ghana's first woman award-winning gyil soloist. (At home she plays in NBC-SNL House Band, and with such as David Byrne, Philip Glass, and Paul Winter.) Barry Olsen has played with every Afro-Cuban star from Celia Cruz to Marc Anthony (and performed extensively in Africa). The three are a performing trio that released the CD ZIE MWEA in May of 2001.

The exact date of this concert is not known, but it occurred in the marked year around this time.

Later Event: April 5
Amazon, Andes and Coast