You may remember Wande Kouyaté from an earlier post on this blog, but I doubt you would guess this is the same artist just by listening to the music. While the cassette I posted earlier had a lusciously rich and 'live' ambience, the sound on this cassette is bone dry. This is partly due to the accompagnement by none other than the legendary Vieux Lion himself, Bazoumanaba Sissoko.
Wande Kouyaté, like many of Mali's divas, saw her career lift off through her involvement with the Ensemble Instrumental National. In this she followed in the footsteps of her mother Bah Tounkara, who was a member of the very first Ensemble.
But it is safe to say that Wande is not one of the most popular djeli's in Mali. When I bought this cassette in the 1980s some Malians praised her for her pure interpretation of traditional classics, while others argued she was too intellectual (or even intellectualistic) to be loved by the masses, and her repertoire tended to be conservative or even dogmatic (if this is possible in music). I am not sure what 'won her over', but it is clear that she modernised her style sometime during the 1990s, - although she managed to keep the ngoni in.
I don't have a reliable discography (or cassettography) of her work, but I think this must be one of her very first cassettes. These recordings were originally released on Sacodis LS 33 (presumably in 1980), and the tell-tale vinyl scratches and noises* seem to indicate that this cassette is a bootleg ripped from the Sacodis lp.
All the tracks feature only Wande with Bazoumana on ngoni. Highlights to me are the brilliantly pentatonic "Ne Ya Me", "Mali Nieman" and - of course - "Bakari Dian", the epic story about that historic hero from Segou, Bakari Dian Koné.
These are bambara traditionals in their purest form. Bazoumana's ngoni evokes a world far from Parisian studios and hi-tech recording gear. A world of dry sun and good friendly folk. The only drawback is that after listening to this cassette I find myself mysteriously covered in red Malian dust....
ASF 322 cassette
From a later date, but still from the 1980s, here is a video of Wande Kouyaté recorded by Malian television. Unfortunately no Bazoumana, but still a very nice version of a song which is also on the cassette I posted earlier: "Niame". You may be tempted to think "Ne Ya Me" is the same song, but this is clearly not the case. Note the remarkable change in pace set in after 5'40. Being a true vedette of Malian music Wande leads the ensemble....
*including traces of reversed vocals which I can only attribute to an error in the alignment of the recording head when they made the 'mastertape' for this cassette.
Nkengas in London
44 minutes ago