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Lesson 1: Learning “Kelefaba”

Aim: How does an instrument accompany a melody?

Summary: Students will sing “Kelefaba,” and learn how a simple, two-note pattern on the kora provides the foundation for the song.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources
Standards: National 1, 2, 4, 7, 10, 11
Vocabulary: accompaniment, jeli, kora, steady beat

“Kelefaba” is the first song that jelis generally learn on the kora, because of its simple, two-note accompaniment pattern. The lyrics also reflect one of the key roles of a jeli, which is to be a peacemaker within the community.

Yacouba Teaches “Kelefaba”

“Kelefaba” Demonstration

Malian traditional artist Yacouba teaches the Malian song “Kelefaba.”

Sing “Kelefaba”

  • Listen to “Kelefaba,” Track 11.
  • Learn the words using “Kelefaba” pronunciation, Track 12, and sing along to “Kelefaba” chorus, Track 13, starting with the refrain and adding the rest of the melody if your students are ready.
  • Note that the melody changes each time Yacouba repeats it. Below is the opening of the song.

“Kelefaba”

Text

Kele magni den
(x4)

Ahh, kele magni den
Balima fula la,
Kele magni den

Kele magni den
(x4)
Ahh, kele magni den
Teri ma fula la,
Kele magni den

Kele magni den
Kele magni den
Ahh, kele magni den
Djamana fula la
Kele magni den

 

Translation

Fighting will lead to no good
(x4)

Ahh, fighting will lead to no good
Two best friends fighting leads to no good,
Fighting will lead to no good

Fighting will lead to no good
(x4)
Ahh, fighting will lead to no good
Two countries fighting leads to no good,
Fighting will lead to no good

Fighting will lead to no good
Fighting will lead to no good
Ahh, fighting will lead to no good
Two siblings fighting leads to no good
Fighting will lead to no good

  • Read and discuss the lyrics to “Kelefaba.”
    • What is this song about? Have you ever had a fight with anyone? If so, how did it make you feel? Were you able to make up? If yes, how did you do it?
    • What’s the difference between fighting and disagreeing?
    • When we have a conflict with someone, how can we make things better? How can we bring about peace?
  • Using the box below, explain that a jeli is a peacemaker, a very special role in Malian culture.
    • Who are the peacemakers in your school, your family, and your community?

Yacouba is a jeli (pronounced JAY lee), a person who comes from an ancient line of musicians and storytellers. Jelis have been the keepers of the history and fables of Mali for centuries. Highly respected within their communities, jelis are responsible for making the stories of the past relevant to contemporary audiences. The kora is one of the traditional instruments that jelis play to accompany their songs.

Explore the Two-Note Accompaniment Pattern in “Kelefaba”

  • Listen together to “Kelefaba” simple accompaniment, Track 14.
    • How many different notes do you hear? How would you describe them? For example, are the pitches close together or far apart? Do they move quickly or slowly?
    • Notice that the accompaniment establishes a steady beat, or pulse.
  • Ask your students to move around the room as they listen to the two-note accompaniment and notice their gait.
    • Are you walking, skipping, or running?
  • Listen together to “Kelefaba” full accompaniment, Track 15, in which the space between the two notes is filled in.
    • What is different about this accompaniment?
  • Ask your students to move around the room to the full accompaniment.
    • How are the added notes reflected in your movement?
  • Note that the accompaniment is a repeated pattern that stays the same, providing a structure or foundation for the melody as it changes and moves.
  • Listen again to “Kelefaba,” Track 11, moving and singing through the verses. During the kora solos, have your students stay in place and do their own expressive movement.
Creative Extension

Compose Your Own Peacemaking Song

This activity will guide you through writing a peacemaking song.
  • Explain that a jeli is a peacemaker in Malian society, and “Kelefaba” is a song that promotes peace and helps people to resolve conflicts.
  • Brainstorm the message of your class peacemaking song.
    • What would you like the message of your song to be?
  • Work together to create a short phrase (similar to “fighting will lead to no good”) that conveys your message.
    • What is a phrase that you can use to encourage people to live in harmony with each other?
  • Using classroom instruments or voices, create a two-note accompaniment for your song.
    • What pattern of notes gives you a feeling of peace and togetherness? Will you use notes that are close together or far apart? Will they move quickly or slowly, evenly or unevenly?
  • Going back to your phrase, clap out the rhythm of the words together, counting the number of syllables.
  • Now create a melody that uses the rhythm of the words. The melody can use the two notes of the accompaniment, plus any notes surrounding those two notes.
    • What kind of melody gives you a feeling of peace and togetherness? Does the melody move one step at a time, or leap up or down? Is it smooth or jagged, soft or loud?
  • To perform the song, divide the class in half. One group can play or sing the accompaniment while the other half sings the melody.
Creative Extension

Explore the Kora

Using Explore the Kora (PDF), explore the kora with your students.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words accompaniment, jeli, kora, and steady beat to the Musical Word Wall.

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