World Music/Contemporary | World Music/Traditional | Americana/Roots
Robust and rhythmic, melodic and smooth, the music of Zansa presents a dynamic synthesis of centuries’ old West African songs and modern instrumentation. Zansa is a Nouchi slang word meaning “blend,” and the group’s debut album, Djansa, meaning “dance,” delivers an explosive dance party vibe with a folkloric storyline.
Based in Asheville, NC, Zansa is led by Adama Dembele, a 33rd generation musician from Ivory Coast, whose ancestry is recognized throughout West Africa as the House of the Djembe. Since the 12th century, oral storytelling musicians/historians known as griots have carried forth the Dembele name and recognition as masters of the djembe. Today, drummers from across West Africa still study under the Dembele family in the Ivory Coast. Adama moved to the United States in 2008. He has performed alongside other West African-influenced bands, including Afromotive and Toubab Krewe. Zansa is his debut outfit, offering songs that are influenced by modern Zouglou beats and traditional African stories, sung in French, Bambara and Baoule dialects, as well as English.
The album, Djansa, marries Adama’s West African drumming traditions with modern instrumentation and song forms. While the djembe drives the rhythmic component, the violin plays a unique role as a lead melodic instrument, echoing the soku, a one-string predecessor that originated in Mali. Electric guitar, bass, percussion, and drum set lend familiarity to foreign sounds. “Many of the songs are from old stories I grew up with, such as the legend of Donsson, the hunter,” says Adama. “We sing about love and celebration, respect and understanding, and we play hard.” This cultural and sonic mix offers an original take on the authentic music of West Africa.
Djansa is being released online (iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby) and in select record stores on September 10, 2013, with performances throughout the Southeast to follow.
*Song translations available per request