Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
West African song genre, a successful evolution away from the traditional Jaliya praise song (for the rich and powerful) towards a voice for the common man, or more especially the common woman. The outspoken lyrics focus on the predicament of women in modern West Africa, where Muslim polygamy is abused at the cost of neglected wives, and a woman incapable of childbearing may be regarded as an outcast or even a witch. The songs use traditional acoustic instruments kamelengoni (young man's harp), djembe (drum), karyaing (metal tube percussion), soku (fiddle, sometimes replaced with the modern Western instrument) and bolon (four-stringed 'bass' harp), and hauntingly powerful female voices in solo and chorus. There is some recent use of electric bass and even funky brass … la James Brown. Good compilations on Stern's are The Wassoulou Sound--Women Of Mali (two vols); prominent artists incl. Sali Sidebe, Coumba Sidebe and Oumou Sangar‚ (see her entry).