Dimi Mint Abba - music from the interface between
Dimi Mint Abba is the best known representative of the griot tradition in Mauretania. Griots are basically folk singers but also more. Dimi Mint Abba is a preserver of traditions, a commentator on contemporary events, a poet and singer in one person. Typical of her homeland, her music is a cross between that of Arabic north Africa and that of sub-Saharan black Africa.
Loula Bint Siddaty Ould Abba, better known as Dimi Mint Abba, is now the best known singer in Mauritania and a prime representative of the griot or iggawin tradition. In the still strictly hierarchical society of Mauritania, the griots have always had an exceptional role: They were a mixture of court-singer, biographer, historian and court fool. Loved for their singing, feared for their sharp tongues and of doubtful rank, they were thought to have clairvoyant or even magical powers. Something of this iggawin tradition has survived in Mauritania, as shown by Dimi Mint Abba.
She was born into an iggawin family in 1958. Her mother is a percussionist and ardin player and her father composed the Mauritanian national hymn and presides over the Mauritanian society of authors and composers. At an early age, Dimi was taught by her mother to play the ardin, which is like the cora, the west African calebash harp, and is mostly played by female griots. It occurs in this form only in Mauritania and is traditionally played together with the four stringed tidinit. The tidinit has been widely replaced in Mauritanian folklore by the more easily tuned and played guitar thanks to Dimi Mint Abba´s father. Dimi Mint Abba is mostly accompanied on the tidinit and guitar by her husband Khalifa Ould Eide.
In 1976 she played for the first time on Mauritanian radio. Her breakthrough came a year later in the Om Kolthoum singing competititon in Tunis, which she won with Sawt Elfan, a song which describes the social role of an artist as being more important than that of a fighter. Since then she has been one of the most important singers of the Maghreb and has undertaken many tours through Africa as also through Europe. In 1990 she issued her first CD ´Moorish Music from Mauritania´, featuring also her husband and her two daughters, and in 1992 ´Musique et Chants de Mauritanie´. Since then she has generally limited herself to performing in concerts in north Africa and Europe.
Author: Richard Berkowski
Dimi Mint Abba was born in Mauritania in 1958 into a family of musicians and was then educated within the griot or iggawin tradition. As a singer, Dimi Mint Abba accompanies herself on the ardin, a relation of the west African cora. In 1976 she sang for the first time on Mauritanian Radio and in 1977 won the Om Kolthoum competition in Tunis and began her international career. Many performances in north Africa and, from 1990 on, in Europe followed, as well as CDs in 1990 and 1992.