Diabate, Massa Makan. 1970. Janjon, et autres chants populaires du Mali. Paris: Présence Africaine.


p. 53

(2) Jasa : Agglomération de cases (sens d'origine), habitation guerrière commandée par un chef responsable devant l'Empereur. Tira Magan, Fakoli, Mande Bukari... étaient des chefs de jasa.

Bird, Charles S., and Martha B. Kendall. 1980. "The Mande Hero: Text and Context." In Explorations in African Systems of Thought, ed. Ivan Karp and Charles Bird, 13-21. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Reprinted Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.


p. 19

Physical descriptions of heroes in the texts frequently elaborate their nonheroic qualities. Sunjata, for example, is portrayed as crippled and infirm until he overcomes tbe curse placed on him. Fakoli, one of his great generals, is characterized as exceptionally short, with an enormous head and a large mouth. The heroic stature of these men is nevertheless indexed in the nyama-laden objects they carry with them. In the Janjon, the Hero's Dance, these lines describe Fakoli's garb:

He entered the Mande
With skulls of birds
Three hundred three and thirty
Hanging from his helmet.
He entered the Mande
With the skulls of lions
Three hundred three and thirty9

p. 20-1

The Janjon praises the exploits of Fakoli, nephew of Sumanguru, the blacksmith king of the Soso and Sunjata's powerful foe. The Janjon tells how Sunjata wages campaign after unsuccessful campaign against Sumanguru to no avail—until Fakoli comes to join him. When Fakoli enters the camp, he finds bards singing the Janjon for Sunjata. He offers to help Sunjata defeat Sumanguru in exchange for the song, an offer which sends the entire camp into gales of laughter at the diminutive hunter with the huge head and the great mouth. Nevertheless they decide to put him to a test and, therefore, ask him to kill one of Sumanguru's fiercest generals. Fakoli returns the next day with the general's head, asking for his song. Another test is posed, and Fakoli meets it too. This time when he asks for the song, Sunjata's hesitation angers him and his anger swells in him until he grows so large that the roof of Sunajata's hut sits on his head like a bush hat. Recognizing Fakoli's terrible power, Sunjata's bards sing the Janjon for him and the song becomes his forever.

p. 25

9. The extracts of the Janjòn come from a performance by Yaumru and Sira Mori Diabaté in Keyla, Mali, 1972. A literary version of the Janjon is presented in Diabaté (1970).

Jessup, Lynne. 1983. The Mandinka Balafon: An Introduction with Notation for Teaching. La Mesa, Calif.: Xylo.


pp. 124–25

Fatakung died, and the brother who had inherited the throne had been overcome by the more powerful Sumanguru. Both he and his sister Kassia had fetish powers, which Sumanguru used to intimidate and kill all rivals. Kassia's lover was the spirit being Manga Yura, who invented the balafon.

Kassia had a child by Manga Yura, and called him Faa Koli. This son was half human and half spirit being. He grew up in Sumanguru's compound, and when he became of marriageable age he married a beautiful woman named Keleya. Sumanguru began to covet her, and finally told Faa Koli that he was not man enough to be her husband and abducted her. Faa Koli swore to get revenge and left for Manding where he asked for help in avenging his wife's imprisonment. It was decided by the elders to send for Sunjata to fight to regain the kingdom.

Famous generals and warriors were also summoned until a great body of men were gathered to fight.

Among the generals who came to fight with Sunjata were Kuma Fofana, Surubanda Makang Kamara, Sankarang Madiba Konteh, Faa Koli, Sora Musa and Tiramakang.

pp. 146–59 (Appendix 2: Balafon Repertoire)

Title Faa Koli (Fakoli)
Translation: Name
Dedication: Same
Notes: one of Sunjata's generals, Tiramakang is the other
Calling in Life: Warrior
Original Instrument: Balafon
Region of Origin: Tilibo
Date of Origin: E (13th & 14th c.)
Sources: 1, 5 (Jessup & Sanyang, M. Suso)

Charry, Eric. 2000. Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press.


p. 41

The epic recounting of the founding of the Mali empire is one of the primary sources of the musical repertory of Mandenka musicians, containing pieces dedicated to Sunjata, Sosso king Sumanguru Kante, and two of Sunjata's allies, Fakoli and Tiramakan Traore.

p. 42

Sunjata raised an army from the allies he visited during his exile, including Sumanguru Kante's nephew Fakoli, who was associated with the clan names Koroma, Dumbia, and Sissoko.

p. 51

Numus are also celebrated by jelis, who remind them of Sumanguru and Fakoli of the Sunjata era, evoking the transfer of power from numu to horon.

Although Maninka and Wasulu hunter’s pieces may praise some of the same heroes, such as Fakoli (Coulibaly 1985:60) or Samori Toure, the musical vehicles that carry them, such as the harps and their tuning systems, are indicators of ethnic identity (siya).18

pp. 83–84

Janjon is associated with the great warrior Fakoli, who left the side of his uncle Sumanguru Kante to join the ranks of Sunjata, and it is sometimes sung during renditions of the Sunjata epic when Sumanguru Kante makes an appearance.

22. For an extended discussion of Fakoli see Conrad (1992). . . . Sidiki Diabate (1990-per: 15–18) attributed Janjon originally to Sumanguru's ancestor Sora Musa, and then to Sumanguru, finally taken over by Fakoli. A line from Janjon in praise of Sumanguru Kante, "First king of the Mande, And traditional King," has prompted Bird (forthcoming) to suggest the idea of a song's being captured. Bird and Kendall (1980:20–21) relate that Janjon was first sung in praise of Sumanguru Kante, and that on hearing it sung for Sunjata, Fakoli desired and ultimately won it because of his heroic sacrifices. "They [jelis] sing that Sumanguru is the first and traditional king; they say that Sunjata is. This sounds like good evidence for Sunjata's winning the song, and having its accompanying story adapted to tit the new circumstances, but the bards choose to preserve Sumanguru 's original claim to the title, and they preserve the role of Fakoli as earning the right to the song" (Bird, forthcoming).

p. 99

Though Dounbouya himself was a practicing jeli—he taught the bala and frequently played at traditional events and on television—he was proud that his name had a nonjeli history. Indeed, one of his favorite pieces to play was Fakoli, a piece honoring Fakoli Doumbia, the nephew of Sumanguru Kante who joined ranks with Sunjata.

p. 148

Image not available.

p. 151

The bala piece Fakoli and the more recent Nanfulen share the unique feature of having three harmonic areas rather than the usual two or four, but they are not spoken of as related.

p. 153

Fakoli is a little-known bala piece that is probably the musical source for the unusual harmonic scheme of Nanfulen, a modern bala piece from Guinea that features three harmonic areas of equal duration.84

84. The only performances of Fakoli I have heard were done by two of my bala teachers, both with the family name Doumbia, which is one of the lineages associated with Fakoli.

pp. 188–89

(See Charry, 2000.) (Bala transcriptions of Fakoli w. discussion.)

pp. 285–86

44. A few musicians have identified the Boulton (1957-disc) bala recording for me as Mamaya, but they may be referring to the music in general rather than the specific piece being played. The piece follows the harmonic scheme of Nanfoulen (and also Fakoli), a rare form having three harmonic areas of equal duration rather than the usual two or four.

pp. 398–401 (Appendix C: Recordings of Traditional and Modern Pieces in Mande Repertories)

Bala: Fakoli/Nanfoulen

Alberts (1949)
"Soba" Manfila Kante (1961?, EPL-7836)
Jardin de Guinée/Guinea Compilations (1967)
Les Ambassadeurs (Ntoman, 198?)
Mory Kante (1988)
Maa Hawa Kouyate (n.d.b.)
Mory Djeli Dienne Kouyate (Kalilou Camara, Karifala Doumbouya, 1990)
Salif Keita (N B'i Fe, 1991)
Djimo Kouyate (1992a)
Sona Diabate/ M'Mah Sylla (Kinikiniko, 1983)
Aboubacar Camara (Nadiyaba, 1994)
Ladji Camara (n.d.a).

Various Artists. 2002. Badenya: Manden Jaliyaa in New York City. Smithsonian Folkways, SFW CD 40494.


A song of the Sunjata epic cycle about a key ally to the emperor, the sorcerer and warrior Fakoli.

Aluye sila bila: Fakoli natòle; mofa fenne aikun. Clear the way: Fakoli is coming; he has great and magical powers.
Aluyé sila bilasa; soòmalu natò Nyawulenba sèbè leye aikun. Clear the way; the sorcerers are coming.
Malien nuyé nankama min korola, wo bélébélé lenin didè. Malian notables talk of someone with great experience and dexterity.
Laginè kaluyé nankama min kofòla; wo bélébélé lè barana. Guinean notables talk of someone with great experience and dexterity.
Ivoirien nuyé nankama min kofòla. Wo bélébélé lenin didè. Ivoirians talk of someone with great experience and dexterity.
Tunyala mòkana bila Fakoli la Maninka kè tè silan nadé. That is the truth; don't provoke him; Maninka people are not afraid.
Kòròndo mòluye dianfaba minkèrila, wo dianfa wotè sélila. That which your enemies do will not affect you.
Telebe mòluye dianfaba minkèlila, wò dianfa wotè sélila. That which the people from the West do will not affect you.
Miri kònòma tasibali kònòma, hankili makònòmale woti nò minala. Ignorant people and ingrates can be set on the right path by wise leaders.
N'bafò tunyalé mòkana bila Manden kalu, Maninka kè tè silan nadé. I say that that is true. Don't provoke the Maninka, they are not afraid.
Bila koroma di mòla bòn biri-biri, Adi mòla lò yòrò kélé. [No Translation Provided]
Fakoli di mòla bòn biri-biri; aledi mòlalò yòrò kelen Fakoli tè silan nadè. Fakoli can cast his enemies aside; he can stop a person in his tracks.
Tunyalé mokana bila Fakolila, Maninka kè tè silan nadé... That is the truth; don't provoke him; Maninka people are not afraid...

Bangoura, Mohamed "Bangouraké." 2004. Djembe Kan.


From Guinea.

This rhythm and song is about a man named Fakolie. He was a great man, a great warrior. He was very strong and powerful. He had a lot of secrets. He was an important man in the village and was called one day for a meeting in the village. Fakolie arrived late and all the people started to talk badly about him. He became very angry. Nobody could stop his anger so the men tried to calm him down by singing and calling him different names: they called him Fakoliekumba (big head), Fakoliedaba (big mouth) Yumyumkolie (sweet man). They also called him Doumbouya and Bangoura. After this he calmed down again. He was a man who we all still remember.

Camara, Alkhaly. 2004. Xylophone Masters: Guinea; Alkhaly Camara, Vol. 1. Marimbalafon, MBCD001.

(Kourouma Boundou / Kourouma Bolo)

Song for the Kourouma and Doumbouya families.

Dupire, Cédric & Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard. 2008. L'homme qu'il faut à la place qu'il faut. Paris: Studio Shaiprod and Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard.


Voilà le rythme de Fakoly. Fakoly est le docteur le plus puissant d'Afrique et du monde. Fakoly, c'est lui qui connait le plus de choses au monde, la nuit, comme la journée. C'est aussi un rythme de féticheur qui travaille avec le diable. Le Kawa est un outil de Fakoly. Le Soliwoulen est un outil de Fakoly. Tout cela ensemble, avec le Koma, c'est ce qu'on appelle Fakoly. Parcequ'il connait beaucoup de choses. Il peut touer quelqu'un sans fusil. Il peut guérir quelqu'un sans fusil. C'était quelqu'un d'important en Afrique, dans le Mandé. C'était le numéro un dans le Mandé. Parcequ'il connaît beaucoup de choses. Tous les médicaments (fétiches) sont les outils de Fakoly. Fakoly… il n'y en a pas deux dans le monde. C'est pour cela que l'on a créé. Le Balafon, le Bolon, le Tama, le Tamtam, on les a regroupés pour créer le rythme de Fakoly.

Soliwoulen et Kawa sont de la même famille. Soliwoulen est le même rythme que Fakoly. Mais chacun a son nom. Chacun possède sa danse des pieds. Mais c'est la même chose.

Oulare, Fadouba. 2008. Fadouba Oulare. Abaraka Music.


Known as the most powerful sorcerer of the Manding. He was said to be able to kill and heal with only speaking. He could change shape and size. He was the uncle of Sundiata Keita, the most powerful king in Manding history.

Fakoli is a very good person who protects many people. Nobody can fool or play with Fakoli. He needs respect and only has time for the most important things. Here they sing to Fadouba.

"Ionde ye Oulare la Guinea la. Fadouba Oulare tetolon fendi." Whoever is looking for Fadouba, pay attention,he is a very serious person.

Rakha, Vijay, dir. 2008. M'Bemba Fakoli: A Musical Journey Through Guinea, West Africa. Abaraka Music.


Fakoli was a military leader and medicine man that allied with Sunjata Keita to defeat Sumouro Kante when he tried to take over Mandinka states in the 13th century.* Fakoli was revered for his bravery and his cunning skill with magic. And this story is retold through the griot repertoire of songs that recount the Sunjata Keita epic. The rhythm Fakoli is played for respectable leaders and those who have done good deeds.

* Transcription mine.

Delbanco, Åge. 2012. West African Rhythms. Charleston, SC: Seven Hawk.


2 bars @ 12 beats.

Fakoli is another name for Wadaba's family, the strongest medicine men dance to this rhythm.

Source: Mamady "Wadaba" Kourouma.

see also:

Conrad, David C. 1992. "Searching for History in the Sunjata Epic: The Case of Fakoli." History in Africa 19: 147-200.