The 5 members of the Montreal based band took the stage at Le National to warm up the crowd for headliner Daby Touré (unfortunately due to time constraints I was not able to stay for his performance) and they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands from the get go. The four men and one woman of Mandinka were born in mostly in West Africa (Senegal, Cote D'Ivoire, Guinee and Paris), but have made their homes in Montreal and the city is that much richer because of it. The word Mandinka is the name of a people in Western Africa who are largely a farming Muslim people. Music and spiritual ritual are highly important in this culture. Due to the high rate of illiteracy in this part of the world oral traditions are paramount. As such, music is an important vehicle with which they tell stories and pass on their traditions. Well, we got a small taste of it and really were the lucky ones.
With two percussionists, a guitarist and Kora (a 21-stringed instrument) coupled with the female lead's rich and beautiful voice, it was a night to remember. The members were all dressed in traditional African clothing and the female lead even changed from one beautiful outfit to another one during their all too short 30 minute set. The crowd really went wild whenever she would break out into dance during musical portions of the show. A couple of songs into the set the female singer encouraged the crowd to dance along with her; she did not want to be the only one dancing. This was all it took for dancing to really break out. Singing in African dialect it did not seem to matter that basically no one in the room understood what they were singing. Music truly was the international language on this night.
One of the things I love about Montreal is our embracing of many different cultures and races. Many of us don't simply tolerate but we appreciate. The mostly Caucasian crowd at Mandinka's show was not there simply out of curiousity, but rather a true passion for African music. Bravo Montreal and bravo Mandinka!