" YASSA POURQUOI YASSA " is the story of a little girl, an orphan of the streets of Bamako, who must discover the origin of her name to accept her destiny. Her quest will lead her to the heart of the legendary West African rhythm, "Rhythm of the crazy women" for some, "Rhythm of renewed hope" for others.
This rhythm is called MORIBAYASSA
It is played by the greatest masters of African percussion.
Listen here to Mamady Keita's version.
The film will be shot in Mali, in the streets of Bamako with a band of young dununs and djembe players.
Preparation and filming will give me the opportunity for an in-depth collaboration with SINJIYA-TON, a charity created in 2005 to help the street children of Bamako.
- Children sheltered by the associations will be auditioned to play in the film,
- We will set up a cultural project around a percussion workshop.
- The film's crew will be housed in Sinjya-ton's B & Bs, this form of "responsible tourism" is an important mean of funding for this association.
But before we start the production of the film, a location scouting and pre-production trip is essential to meet the different partners of the film in Bamako.
I appeal to your interest and generosity for this location scouting.
Let me tell you the story in details...
THE ORIGINS OF THE PROJECT
African music fulfills a social role, it does not exist by itself.The rhythm "Moribayassa" is traditionally played at the request of a woman. The dance has a very strict ritual : The woman dresses in rags, she makes several trips around the village taking the crowd as a witness, then she throws her old clothes in a landfill or buries them at the foot of the tutelary tree.
Women perform this dance when they loose all hope in a very serious matter (fertility, illness of a relative... ). They invoke "Moribayassa" promising that, if their misfortune ceases, they will perform the "Yassa" dance.
This is usually what is explained to those who wonder about the meaning of this rhythm...
But what is "Moribayassa" ? An ancestor ? A tree ? A spirit ? And why should a woman dress in rags to dance around the village ?
I had the pleasure of interviewing the Guinean director Cheick Camara Fantamady during the last FESPACO (the African film festival in Oaugadougou ) who has directed a feature film called "Moribayassa !" that will be released in a few months. Here is what he told me : "We do not know where things come from... Moribayassa is like an oath, a request made to the ancestors... Man needs something above him to hang to".
He was born in a country of beliefs, he does not need explanations .
In her latest album "Wassa " the Guinean singer Aïcha Kone fulfills a promise she made : "I had once said that if the war in Ivory Coast ended I would dance the Yassa around the neighborhood." When a reporter asked her about the origin of the Moribayassa, she said : "This is a dance accompanied by songs that flourished in the days of our grandmothers and mothers when they made wishes."
Another explanation is found on Abidjan's website (Folkways, May 28, 2010 ): "Hard to say who is that Moribayassa that grants wishes and is thanked by a dance. It is undoubtedly a VATA (a traditional African value) which belongs to the Malinke and Bambara. This practice dates back to immemorial time."
The guinean grandmaster djembefola Mamady Keita, who was my percussion teacher in France and Guinea for six years, explains that the mango tree of Balandougou, his native village, at the foot of which the dance finishes, has taken the name "Moribayassa". I would like to thanks Ali Thomas (with whom I was at Mamady Keita's home in 2005) for putting the following video online in 2010... (even if a camera stabilizer would have improved it ... )
I would have settled for those explanations if Awa Kouyaté, dancer with the National Ballet of Mali, hadn't told me about a Malian film in the ORTM series "Terroir " that she watched several years ago. The documentary showed a village where people came to make offerings and vows on a tomb where a couple was buried, a man called Moriba and a woman called Yassa .
Suddenly the ancient myth was anchored in reality...
From there on, I started my research. It took one year to trace this film, which had disappeared from the archives of the ORTM during the coup in spring 2012. The film is in Bambara (which I started learning at the INALCO in 2010). I also found two books that give two different origins to this rhythm.
NOTE FOR THE FILM
My curiosity, my knowledge of djembe rhythms, my eternal "wish to understand" and modern means of investigation led me to gather little known informations about this very popular West African rhythm, but I chose to write a fiction movie because I do not see myself as " someone who knows ". My intention is not to raise a controversy between different theories, there is no single "Truth" !
As Fantamady Cheick Camara once said "These are all stories that build the landmark of a people."
Through my film, I want to translate in images a sensitive and musical story which central pillar is this legendary rhythm. I will depict the wandering of young musicians playing dununs and djembes in the city of Bamako, their struggle for life, their hopes and disappointments, alliances and oppositions, their strength and love of life.
Among them, a committed girl, sensitive, wounded, who needs to look back in her history to be able to face the future. Her quest will put her in a difficult situation, facing the multiple answers to a single question ( "Is there more than one truth? "). What to do with all those assertions which seem to seal her fate ?
Her quest for the origin of the word " Moribayassa " will also be ours. It will be an opportunity to turn into pictures the various versions of the origin of this rhythm.
Some part of the film will be in the form of a tale. These tales will be translated in motion pictures using Motion Design techniques combined with traditional illustration.
Note: All photos shown in this document were taken during my travels in Africa, these are not pictures of the actual cast.
Do not cry for me, sing me and dance me.
A Yassa never cries.
This is the message left to Yassa by her mother just before she dies. The obstinacy of the young orphan, taken in by street musicians of Bamako, who questions her destiny will lead us to the heart of the origin of the ancestral African rhythm "Moribayassa" , the rhythm of renewed hope...
STATUS OF THE PROJECT
An application has been submitted to the CNC for a production aid that would convince a producer to get involved in this adventure. The answer will fall in February.
All the members of the french crew ( cinematographer, sound engineer and assistant) are 100% committed to the project.
So is the Malian crew in Bamako (production manager and assistant).
From this side of the border or the other, they are all very experienced professionals .
The grandmaster djembefola Adama Diarra will set all the musical parts up and coach the actors and young musicians.
PURPOSE OF THE TRIP
- To go to the village of Warabugu filmed by the Malian team of the ORTM in 1998 which is 170 km east of Bamako and search for location scouting.
Things have changed in this country in 15 years ! Do the celebrations of "Moriba" and "Yassa" still take place ?
- To cast the griot who will play an important part in the film. We will have to elaborate with him the parts of the story that will be narrated to the rhythm of his kora . They are written in French, they must be translated into Bambara . This is a big job since the Bambara language and culture do not allow a word for word translation. The tales and the dialogues of the children will also be in Bambara, the rest of the dialogues will be in French.
- To start working on the project with the djembefola Adama Diarra and to audition young actors and musicians. We will begin work on the musical aspect of the film. - To initiate, in conjunction with the preparation of the film, a cultural project with the children of SINJIYATON. Music, moviemaking and acting workshops. - To bring back images that will show the richness of the project from a cinematographic point of view but also from a musical and social point of view.
WHO AM I ?
For thirty years I'v been looking for my roots, using music as a passport for countries with traditional cultures (Brazil , Italy, West Africa). For each of these journeys, I also learned the language (I've been studying Bambara at the INALCO since 2010 ). Yet I am French, my parents, my husband and my children are French.
So what is the purpose of my quest ?
Traditional cultures attract me because they anchor man in a rich and powerful collective imagination that connects the different generations. I did not found this vital energy in French culture, so I went to look elsewhere.
My first trip to West Africa was in 2003. I went to complete my apprenticeship with the world renowned master Djembefola Mamady Keita.
This trip has anchored me in Africa forever.
Since then, I've returned to Africa each year (Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso) always for a musical purpose but also in a desire for cultural and human sharing. In Guinea, I became friend with Cece Koly, Mamady Keita and Beybey Youla, in Mali with Adama Diarra, Mohamed Camara, Ibrahima Sarr and Ibrahima Diabate, to name a few...
On the other hand, I am an active member of the cultural association, "La Compagnie des Tambourlingueurs " which activity and intercultural work with diverse populationsis is of the public interest. We work with Malian musicians in France and Mali.
Here is the video I made during our participation in the race "la course des héros" in Paris in 2012.
One last point : Since 2010, I've been studying Bambara, African culture and African cinema at the University of Oriental Languages in Paris (Inalco).
This gave me the opportunity to be a member of the Jury at the International Film Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO ) in 2013 and to shoot a short documentary on this event...
Speaking of my experience as a filmmaker, I could say that I learned the " art " in the first half of my life. I was a script girl, stage manager, production manager, editor and camera operator . Here are some links to some of my short films.
Now, the filmmaker is at the service of the musician ! ...