A river named Fatala flows through the small West African country of Guinea. For centuries along that river, the people of the Sousou tribe have made music with their voices, with the drumming of djembes and doum-doums and the plinking xylophone-like sounds of balafons. And, in ornate costumes, they have danced, whether the occasion was a harvest, a marriage, a birth or a death.
Today, at 10 a.m. the ancient, polyrhythmic music of that faraway place will resonate throughout Pasadena's Victory Park, where a group named after the river will perform. The appearance is part of the 10-member troupe's first California tour.
A New York Times reviewer, referring to a performance during Fatala's first U.S. tour in 1989, wrote that the sounds produced by Fatala suggested that there was African music "the West has yet to discover."
Fatala has performed at music festivals in Europe and Canada, including the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. In 1988, with the assistance of musician Peter Gabriel, they recorded their first album.
Lese Camara, whose husband, Yacouba (Bruno) Camara, is the group's leader, said: "In everything Fatala plays you can hear the roots of blues, jazz, reggae and pop. You can hear everything. "
Bruno Camara, a master percussionist and dancer who grew up in a village along the Fatala, started performing professionally in the 1960s. After leaving Africa, he moved to Paris in 1968. For the next decade, he appeared throughout Europe with major African music groups. Then he moved to his current home in Holland, where he formed his own group of Guinean musicians.
"When people dance and play music together, invisible borders are crossed," he said.
Victory Park is at 2575 Paloma St., by Altadena Drive. The concert is sponsored by the city of Pasadena's Arts Division in association with the city of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and the Los Angeles African Marketplace and Cultural Faire. Admission is free.
Before leaving Southern California, Fatala will also perform two more free concerts in Los Angeles: Friday noon at the California Plaza at 300 S. Grand Ave. and Saturday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the African Marketplace, 5007 Rodeo Road.