Camara, Ladji. n.d. Africa, New York. Recorded 1975. Lyrichord, LYRCD 7345.


Nofoule is a protest song of slavery during the period of French colonialism in Guinee. After independence of Guinee [sic] this song became a folk song and is now performed in the cities by the young people. The words say: Please make me free. Take off these shackles.

Kaba, Mamadi. 1995. Anthologie de chants mandingues (Côte d'Ivoire, Guinée, Mali). Paris: Harmattan.

(Nanfoule [Viens Me Délier1])

p. 221

Les fonctionnaires m'avaient conseillé
De ne point faire de la contrebande
Mais je n'ai pas suivi ce conseil
Car le destin précède l'existence.
Alors, douanier, viens me délier !
J'ignorais que les conséquences
De cet acte seraient aussi graves.
Je souffre et à force de pleurer,
Je bêle comme les chèvres
Dont je parle même le langage.
Je t'en prie, je n'en peux plus.
Le destin précède la vie.
Douanier, viens me délier.

1 Au début de la dernière guerre mondiale, la circulation des personnes et des marchandises avait été interrompue entre les colonies françaises et anglaises en raison de l'antagonisme entre le régime français de Pétain d'une part et celui anglais et de la résistance française d'autre part. Alors que toutes les marchandises manquaient dans les colonies françaises soumises à un rationnement draconien, les colonies anglaises regorgeaient de marchandises dont les prix bas défiaient toute concurrence. Aussi, des contrebandiers, au péril de leur liberté et parfois même de leur vie, se rendaient en Sierra Leone, en Gambie, au Ghana, etc... et s'ils s'échappaient à la douane, devenaient riches rapidement. Mais ceux qui se laissaient prendre subissaient toutes sortes de violences et de sévices. Un griot commerçant qui a fait de la contrebande et qui a été pris dans les filets de la douane, a été torturé et à sa libération a composé le chant "Nanfoulé" ou "Viens me délier" qui eut beaucoup de succès. Ce morceau est un diagba.

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


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

p. 188–89

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

Three harmonic areas of equal duration are rare in the jeli's repertory; the only other piece like this is Nanfulen, which I consider a musical child of Fakoli.

p. 248

The earliest written source specifically indicating that Mande music was being played on the guitar may be Fodeba Keita's (1948) Chansons du Dioliba, a twenty-to twenty-five-minute play consisting of one actor rendering Keita's poetry accompanied by a guitarist. Keita, most likely inspired by his relationship with Facelli Kante, named a dozen pieces of music (such as Kaira and Nanfulen) to be played throughout the performance.

p. 249

The earliest nonstudio recordings of Mande music played on a guitar may be those made by Arthur S. Alberts in Kissidougou, Guinea, in 1949 . . . These recordings demonstrate that a Mande guitar style had developed by then and was well integrated into the jeli tradition. They show a broad knowledge of the repertory of the jeli, including Lamban, Sakodugu, Sunjata, and Nanfulen. One of the guitarists often sang along with his guitar lines and appears to have been the leader of the group, which also included a female singer.11

11. Several older musicians from Kissidougou, Kankan, and Siguiri whom I interviewed could not identify the guitarist or vocalist recorded by Alberts in Kissidougou, but they noted that the singer was young and inexperienced. They also recognized the vocal dialect as probably coming from Siguiri.

p. 250

Older pieces from the jeli's repertory were rare on commercial recordings before the 1960s.13 Among the several twentieth-century jeli pieces recorded were Kaira, Yarabi (Diarabi) and Mamaya (also known as Bandian Sidime) . . . Other well-known recent pieces included Nanfulen ("Soba" Manfila Kante 1961?-disc) and Tubaka (Sory Kandia Kouyate 1956?-disc).

pp. 285–86

Most of the twentieth-century pieces that have entered the repertories of jelis and orchestras come from Upper Guinea. Nanfulen (Nanfoulé), a piece protesting French colonial rule, was probably drawn from the bala.43

43. M. Kaba (1995:221) tranlates Nanfulen as "Come, release me" (na n fule), and dates it to World War II when the French imposed draconian rations on their colonies and prohibited trade with neighboring British colonies such as Sierra Leone. Kaba attributes the piece to a "griot merchant" caught in the contraband traffic who was tortured by colonial customs officers.

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 20th-century anthem of celebration of freedom, this version is sung as a praise-song to a patron in Abidjan.

Iye n'malon te, n'malon ho. Adama denula mana mana kuma wolenò mògò tinyena mòma, Woyi nanfulen. Ah, Djaka, la malo mandinyè kinibili dusu fè tanti Iye n'malon tan, n'malon ho. Bimòlu mana mana kuma wolenò mògò tinyena mòma, Woyi nanfulen. Kamara bana, la malo mandinyè Kinibili dusufè, nanfulen. Konye wala Djaka bara N'ko n'ne watò Djaka lefè fina den kuru bè jigiyi leledi. Woyi nanfulen, Ah Djakala kasi mandinye Kinibili dusufè tantì. I bemba kòròma nara sookè sarakadi, Bè laduba diabiri lema. Kamara, musu ledi. Lolo n'mari tallah bè kaïra kura kinyè N'mana karifa ila Kònò nidina n'nalo bi wo fò n'nye. M'bara miri m'bara miri m'bara kònòrò ban N'ne nyante n'fila nin nyòna Ja saya ye tunyadi. M'bara miri m'bara miri m'bara kònòrò ban. N'ne nyante n'wolo na bèrèla. Ja saya manyi Allah biri bunyè, jon ti dòyala Famalé Allah di latè ka kòrò jondi woyi... I don't know, I don't know. The loose words people say undermine the trust between us, nanfulen. I don't want to disgrace you, Djaka; don't be angry with people, madam. The Kamara [the clan of Djaka], I don't want to disgrace you, nanfulen. Don't be angry with people. I am going to visit Djaka, I am going to be near Djaka. All the finalu have confidence in her. Nanfulen, I don't want to see Djaka cry. Don't be angry with people, madam. Your ancestors have sacrificed for you, So that good things will come to you. Kamara, you are a great woman. Every day, God grants you goodness. I confide in you, but if you know you will disgrace me later, let me know. I have reflected on it again and again until I can do no more. I don't see my confidante. Death is absolute. I have reflected again and again until I can no more. I don't see my mother anymore. Death is terrible. God respects you as no one else can. God is great, destiny is (older) greater than oneself...

Williams, Joe Luther. 2006. "Transmitting the Balafon in Mande Culture: Performing Africa at Home and Abroad." Ph.D. diss., University of Maryland.


p. 131

Abou Sylla translates Nanfulen as a contraction of the Maninka phrase na n fule, meaning "come, release me" or "come, help me."20 He told me that the idea is comparable to the French word secours, meaning "help" or "aid," and that the song is "played for generous people who can help you out" (personal conversation March 2006).

20 See Charry (2000, 286, note 43). He cites Mamadi Kaba (1995, 221), who translates Nanfulen the same way as Abou, but describes the origin of the song as being a World War II era protest against French colonial rule.

p. 132

21 When I asked Abou if there is a historical connection between Fakoli and Nanfulen, he said that he did not know of one. Chary [sic] also states that Fakoli is "a little-known bala piece" (2000, 153), but I found it to be fairly well-known in the coastal region of Guinea. The two balafon players from whom Charry learned the piece are originally from Kindia, also Abou's hometown, which is in the coastal region of Guinea, so perhaps this explains the discrepancy between the frequency of Charry's encounters with the piece and mine.

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


C'est le rythme du nom de Nanfulé. Nanfulé est un rythme du temps colonial. C'est la musique du chef de canton. N'est-ce pas? Les jeunes aujourd'hui ne connaissent plus ça. Durant l'époque coloniale, lorsque les français étaient ici, on nommait des chefs de canton. C'est le chef de canton qui commandait toute la région de Faranah. C'est leur rythme. Ataché, détaché, c'est ce qu'on appelle en Malinké : Nanfulé. Si quelqu'un est ligoté (fait prisonnier), il dira en Malinké : Nanfulé (vient me détacher.) Lorsque tu es ligoté, il faut qu'un griot, comme eux, vienne prier le chef de canton de te libérer. C'est ce qu'on appelle Nanfulé. Voilà l'histoire de Nanfulé.

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


Originally a rhythm played for a famous Malinke king. The kind [sic] was famous for ruling with an iron hand. His government imprisoned many people to keep his established rules. Nanfulin was sung by the imprisoned, which literally translates to, "Come free me."

"Eh wulli ngi mafaney itene ah sinyalero. Fadouba signa bara dunya bey henney Fadouba inkan bila iyousuu fey nanfulin." Look at Fadouba well. Everyone know [sic] that Fadouba is a great person and very famous. Fadouba, everyone loves and respects him for helping us.

Racanelli, David. 2012. "Formulaic Variation Procedures in Mande Griot (Jeli) Guitar Playing and Improvisation." Analytical Approaches to World Music 2 (1): 152-76.

(N'Toman / Nanfulen)

pp. 167-8

During the 1970s, Les Ambassadeurs International recorded "N'Toman," which features formulaic variation in the guitar solo of Kanté Manfila. . . . The word "N'Toman" translates into English as "homonym," symbolizing the marital union between a man and woman who share the same name after marriage. Balafon player Famoro Dioubaté expands this definition to include "namesake," the person for whom a child is named upon his or her naming, which occurs eight days after birth. While the meaning of its title varies with interpretation, the instrumental playing in "N'Toman" is synonymous with the music of an older named work. Mande griots in New York recognize "N'Toman" as "Nanfulen" or "Come Release Me." It commemorates a Mande trader who resisted French colonial rule by trading with Gambians during the nineteenth century. Most of the parts, patterns, and figuration that I learned for "Nanfulen," which Djoss attributes to an itinerant tambin (flute) player, originated on the Les Ambassadeurs International recording of "N'Toman." Griots such as Djoss Diabaté, however, rarely speak of "N'Toman," deferring to "Nanfulen" as a way of identifying this piece. More recently, Salif Keita recomposed "Nanfulen" in his song "N'B'i fe" whose introduction and refrain also recur in versions of "Nanfulen" performed by griots in New York.

I learned "Nanfulen" as a series of grooves and figures from Djoss years prior to my discovery of "N'Toman" on CD.3 My discovery allowed me to make the connection between these two pieces that are virtually inseparable in the minds of griots. "N'Toman" or "Nanfulen" consists of a distinctive melodic-rhythmic progression that is based upon three tones, A, F, and G. This progression of tones and the cycle of twelve beats inform Kanté Manfila's birimintingo on the Les Ambassadeurs recording. His solo, which unfolds in a slow and deliberate manner, is based upon melodic ideas inherent in the accompaniment part transcribed in the two lower staves of Figure 7. According to Durán, this type of variation involves additional notes introduced either as passing notes or octave duplications of pitches in the basic phrase. Kanté makes the most of the available resources ensuring that his cascading lines leave and return to the recurring theme smoothly in his controlled displays of virtuosity (see mm. 1, 7, 9, and 12). As previously mentioned, clear connections between phrases of this kind constitute "good birimintingo" or a good solo (Durán 1981, 191). The passagio ornamenting the transition from one tone to the next marks the ends of units, while Kanté increases the textural density of the groove with his striking melodic diminutions.

3 "N'Toman" appears on the compilation Golden Afrique Vol. 1 (2005). "Nanfulen" is contained on the CD Badenya: Mande Jaliya in New York (2002), which features Djoss Diabaté and his group Super Mande on several tracks.

p. 169

Figure 7. Kanté Manfila's Extended Variation in "N'Toman" (time cue 3:58-4:31 of original recording)

V1 (mm. 2 –4)—V2 (mm.5 –7)—V3 (mm. 8 –10)—V4 (mm. 11 –13)

Image not available.