August 16, 2010

Super Volta Jazz

When it comes to the music of Burkina Faso I am still very much in the process of discovering and learning. I was aware that infrastructurally Haute-Volta (Upper Volta) was a barren land, with no recording studios and no facilities for pressing records. Only in the 1980s, when Haute-Volta became Burkina Faso, a modest form of recording became possible. I was under the impression that this meant that most Voltaique bands went to Abidjan, Côte D'Ivoire, to record, but I recently read that bands of the Club Voltaique Du Disque (CVD) label travelled to the city of Kumasi in Ghana, - which was probably closer than Abidjan and had the added attraction of a cheaper studio.

I had been lead to believe that orchestras in the Upper Volta of the 1960s and 1970s went without the benefits of a strong cultural (state) policy (as for example in Guinea and Mali) and that financial support of artists and/or bands by the state or public institutions was unheard of. But I recently learned that the Super Volta orchestra was actually founded with sponsorship from Maurice Yaméogo, the first president of Haute-Volta. Or actually I think it was the Typic Band. This band was founded in 1964 or 1965 by a certain Zinsi Ouédraogo, who in 1966 renamed it to Super Volta de la Capitale. Before getting overthrown in a military coup and resigning (on January 3, 1966) Yaméogo provided the Typic Band with the best equipment (his or the government's?) money could buy, thus giving them a rather unique position within Voltaique music, where most orchestras used the equipment provided by the patrons of the bars where they were allowed to play (for a 'competitive' fee). Subsequently Super Volta became the leading band of the CVD label.

I still hope to learn more about this CVD label. It seems to me that some rather smart people have been in charge of this label, judging not only by the great music they have produced, but also by the fact that they managed to survive at all as a label within Haute-Volta.
And talking about great music: the greatest of all the CVD artists was - in my opinion - Traoré Amadou better known as Amadou Ballaké. Florent Mazzoleni, who recently sent me some photos of Ballaké reposing 'chez lui', has sent me another single of this master, recorded for and by the CVD label (so probably in Kumasi, Ghana!). The vinyl quality is perhaps far from optimal, but to a fan (like me) any Ballaké is highly appreciated....

"El Hadji Fasano", on the A-side, opens like a praise song. Ballaké, singing in Dioula, appears to be greeting 'Baba' Fasano. But then in the second line the El Hadji (indicating that the man has done his duty as a muslim and has been on a pilgrimage to Mecca) is linked in one breath to a strong alcoholic beverage! What does it mean? Is the El Hadji a renowned militant in the struggle against alcohol abuse? Or a local producer of moonshine?
And is it me, or is Ballaké citing from Bembeya's "Djamana bara Sabati"? And is the start borrowed from "Loi Cadré"?
So much still to discover......

The B-side again calls up memories of Guinean classics, with hints of "Wara" by Nimba Jazz. There are some lovely bits by Mangue Kondé on lead guitar, and - of course - solid vocals by Ballaké.

Club Voltaique du Disque CVD 53

Volta Jazz, from Bobo-Dioulasso, was founded at around the same time as Super Volta by Idrissa Koné. I suspect that they may have been inspired by a visit of Franco's O.K. Jazz in 1963, or perhaps by Les Bantous, who also toured West Africa in the early 1960s. Although it is hard to find any information about this orchestra I have heard reports that they toured neighbouring countries in the early 1970s. In the mid-1970s they appeared to fade away, but they mysteriously resurfaced in 1977 with a series of releases on the Disques France-Afrique label, two of which I would like to share with you in this post. They also managed (through this Abidjan-based french label?) to get some records released on Sonafric, and I may be tempted to post their lp on that label at a later date.

The first of the two singles contains two rather up-tempo tunes, with what resembles the Voltaique version of a Congolese rumba on the one side ("Tjee Gouana") and a rhythm which might be called a pachanga on the other ("Sankoura"). It seems hard to believe these tracks are from 1977; in all aspects the style seems more 1960s.

Disques France-Afrique LGVD 1.102

The same goes for the two songs on the other single. The rumba "N'Ti Toubabou Kanme" on the A-side appears to be about a conflict with the police. And before you assume that I have a more than very superficial knowledge of dioula or bambara: there is a bit of french in the song after 1'53 when the hero of this song is being addressed by a police officer. What the 'toubabou' (white person) has to do with it, I can only guess.
"Djougou Malola" is the odd one out of these four tracks, as it reminds me not of the music of the two Congo's, but of those wonderful ballads of the early Guinean bands like Orchestre de la Pailotte, Orchestre du Jardin de Guinée and Kebendo Jazz. A lovely well-dosed horn section, great guitar tottering about in the background, nicely proportioned solos: what a delight!! I could do with more of this......

Disques France-Afrique LGVD 1.110


The three singles can also be found here, bundled into one download.

P.S.: Graeme Counsel has added a discography of the CVD label to the (many) discographies on his site.

EDIT August 18, 2010: Scott Arnold was kind enough to put in some effort to clean up the Ballaké, making sure he didn't (unlike the very unfortunate Ouaga Affair CD) ruin the music. You can download the cleaned-up tracks here (sleeve etc. included). Muchas gracias, Scott!!

10 comments:

Jaime said...

Fabulous, lots of thanks

reservatory said...

THANK YOU for the music as well as the bit of history, from this neglected corner of the world, with its unique sounds...

Anonymous said...

Graeme Counsel has the CVD-discographie on his site - with some older Mossi-stuff, beeing folklorique musique, with Kaboré Mathias, etc

M.

Anonymous said...

A million thanks for your kindness

reservatory said...

This stuff is even better than I expected. Crazy and strange. THANKS again.

Oro said...

Hello my friend,
just coming from hollidays. The Volta Jazz has been created in 1964 by Tidiani Coulibaly. he is singing on the records you are sharing. More info on my post about Coulibaly Tidiani:

http://orogod.blogspot.com/2010/07/special-post-coulibaly-tidiani-feat.html

best regards, Oro.

rd said...

Thanks for this excellent post. I'm curious about your remark concerning the Ouaga Affair CD. In what way was the music ruined? Could you elaborate? I'm considering picking it up but may re-think it.

Anonymous said...

disque france afrique was semi itinerant and these discs were made well before 1977.

come these recordings with their singles on cvd and sonafric and these are more probably late 60s. the pic sleeves are a give away too for a much earlier date

WrldServ said...

@ rd: In an effort to reduce the noise of the original vinyl, the compilers of Ouaga Affair have - in my opinion - gone too far. This has resulted in a somewhat pinched sound, which is especially noticeable in the guitars and horns.

@Anonymous (the last): You confirm what I suggested in the post. And I agree about the sleeve, which looks more like the Bantous and Negro Band sleeves of the early 1960s. Unfortunately you don't mention the source which can confirm this...

Anonymous said...

i'm not sure which source you are using to think these are from '77 tho...