In August, we stumbled upon the American Folk Music Festival in Bangor, Maine. One of the highlight of the festival was Sana Ndiaye who played the Sengalese akonting. During the festival, Ndiaye was joined by percussionist Backa Niang on the djembe - both were amazing! We saw them perform several times because we were so mesmerized. At times, the percussions and the akonting reversed roles, where the akonting carried the rhythm and percussions floated above.
Believed to be the West African ancestor of the banjo, a gourd bodied lute, the akonting has three strings. Two longer melody strings and one shorter drone string - akin to the short fifth string on the banjo. The music of the akonting is composed of short sustained notes that are played over and over again.
Unfortunately CDs aren't currently available of these traditional songs but keep your ears open - expect more to come from these performer. Both are members of the African hip-hop group Gokh-Bi System, which combines traditional musicians and instruments with hip-hop.
To hear more of Sana Ndiaye playing the akonting, click here and here.