October 31, 2008


Tata 'Bambo' Kouyaté is one of Mali's top divas and has been for over 45 years. She got her nickname from her first 'hit' in 1962 at the age of 12. In the song "Bambo" she criticised the custom of arranged marriages. And this in a time when traditions were (even more) solidly rooted in Malian society. And to make things even worse the first public performance of the song was during a gala at a meeting of heads of state in Bamako, organised by the first president of independent Mali, Modibo Keita.
The reaction of the president was, however, very positive. He gave Tata a large sum of money and his wife gave a set of expensive clothes. Furthermore he ordered that she should become a singer with the Ensemble Instrumental National (like Wande Kouyaté).

Tata Bambo has never shunned confronting what she thought was wrong. With the next Malian president Moussa Traoré this got her into serious trouble. She had sung in praise of the president and expected that he as a patron of the arts (and more particular of Tata Bambo as a djeli) would remunerate her for her flattery. But no reaction came, and Tata confronted the president by publicly demanding that he should do 'the right thing'. The president cautioned her, but Tata Bambo insisted and -again publicly- repeated her demand. On that Moussa Traoré ordered that Tata Bambo should remain restricted to her compound for one year.
In her first public appearance after that year she repeated her demand.......

The first track of this cassette is called "Balla", which is Moussa Traoré's nickname. I am not sure which of the songs addressed to Moussa Traoré this is, but listening to the song you'ld have to be a tough guy to stand up this much vocal venom.....
And to aid you in visualizing, here is a video from the 1980s featuring Tata Bambo accompanied by her ensemble, with husband Modibo Kouyaté on guitar.

October 30, 2008


I heard Abelardo Barroso for the first time in West Africa. It took me a few seconds to realise that he was singing in Spanish, as his voice fitted in very well with the African surroundings. I can certainly imagine why Bembeya's legendary singer Aboubacar Demba Camara was a fan.

It took me a few years to fit the name with the voice, and the voice with the orchestra. And later still, I discovered that he sounds even better in Cuba!
Ah what a delight, travelling through Cuba with la musica sabrosa of Abelardo Barroso and Orquesta Sensación !

Even without the legendary singer Orquesta Sensación is worth listening to, as you can hear on this lp. Only four of the twelve songs feature Barroso singing lead.
The quality of the lp leaves something to be desired, but this is compensated by the musical brilliance, I think.

Bembeya Jazz live

For a change, only photos. Of Bembeya Jazz performing in the Melkweg, Amsterdam, yesterday.
As a Guinean living in the Netherlands commented: "They're better than Baobab".

October 29, 2008

22 Band de Kankan

At the end of the 1990s this band still existed, and that's no mean feat. They started as the "22 Novembre Band" in the 1970s, and as such they were the Orchestre Federal (Federal Orchestra) of the prefecture de Kankan. I am sure the name refers to the attack led by Portugese soldiers on November 22, 1970. In Guinea, even today, it is simply known as "l'agression".

The 22 Band was exceptional as a federal orchestra in that they managed to get three albums released on the Syliphone label. Strangely these albums have not been re-released as such, only some tracks have appeared on collections. If you like, I will post the lp's later.

But for now here is a cassette from what sounds like a live recording of the 22 Band. The cassette states that it's from 1988*. The recording has a superb atmosphere; it's not hard to imagine yourself attending the soirée....

* the photos were taken by Rob Lokin in Kankan in 1999.

The original Gnonnas

I have referred to the subject before, but it's a pity that some of the great artists of Africa only generate 'global' interest -and sometimes even recognition- after they have performed with a western ensemble or have had a record produced by a western producer. One of these great artists (and maybe he is even a Great Artist) is Gnonnas Pedro, of Africando fame - until he died in 2004.

You can read more about him in this interesting post on the "With Comb and Razor" blog. And while you're at it, don't forget to download the last track (or all of the tracks) of the album posted there.

Here is an lp from (I suspect) 1980. The A-side of the album features tracks which have at some point been released on CD (the two Ledoux compilations).
Side B features just one track, "Kalapchap".

As a bonus I add this wonderful single, with an earlier version of "Dark As A Dungeon" (than the one you just downloaded from Comb & Razor), by Gnonnas and his Panchos de Cotonou.

October 28, 2008

Belle Oumar Bella & Amadou Djeliba

Malian society can get very complicated in the eyes of a foreigner (and even toubabou) like me. I thought singer Belle Oumar Bella Sango was Sonraï. But apparently he sings in Peulh (or Fula if you like). And when I first saw them on Malian television and everybody was saying "Ah! Amadou Djeliba", I thought they were talking about the singer. But Amadou Djeliba appears to be the ngoni player.

Here is a clip, so you can see why I was confused.

The duo has appeared before on several compilations, notably the "Le Mali du Fleuve" album on Bärenreiter-Musicaphon (BM 30 L2502), where they are credited as natives from Macina. This town in the Niger delta (which plays a key role in Peulh legend and history) has made a huge impact on me, as being the world capital of mosquitoes...

Nevertheless I just love the music of Belle Oumar Bella & Amadou Djeliba, and especially this classic cassette.

P.S. I had some connection problems - more tomorrow.

Mwanga Paul

The beginning of the 1960s saw the first 45s in Congo. And soon after -as in the rest of the world- the EP. The Ngoma label, founded in 1948 by Nico Jeronimidis and led by N. Cavvadias, went with the times and introduced the series Ngoma Super 45 t.
The releases were a mix of re-releases and new recordings.

I'll post some more later but here are two of my favorite Super 45's. Both feature the great Mwanga Paul, who had switched to the Ngoma label after the demise in 1956 of the Opika label (see this earlier post). Accompanying Mwanga are on Super 45 No.30 his own Affeinta Jazz and on No.66 Jazz Venus.

I especially like the Kikongo tracks like the two last tracks on the B-sides.
Super 45s!!

October 26, 2008

Biton's last

The story of the Super Biton orchestra from Ségou has always been closely linked to that of the Biennales and its predecessor, the Semaines Nationales. The orchestra represented the Segou region in the category "orchestre moderne" at all the Semaines and Biennales (although a few times 'hors compétition'). I will come back to Biton's history in a later post.

But at the very last of the old style Biennales in 1988 Super Biton disappointed and came nowhere near winning. Band members sought excuses and blaimed the lack of investment in equipment and instruments. The general opinion of the public attending the concert at the Cinéma Rex in Bamako was that Biton had exaggerated the flattery. Too much "Président Moussa Traoré is a great guy".

Personally I think it was the absence of Amadou 'Armstrong' Bah, who had retired as 'chef d'orchestre' after the European tour of 1987. He was the invariable quantity in the history of Biton.

Biton released their last cassette (which they recorded in Abidjan) at the same Biennale. Although enjoyable, it's certainly not their best.

EDIT April 12, 2015: The link has been updated.

October 25, 2008

Oliver De Coque

This is a case of wrong sleeve but right record. There must be someone with the lp Olumo ORPS 100 by Oliver De Coque but with the sleeve of ORPS 68. Because I have the matching pair...

I am not complaining though, because ORPS 68 is a classic in the 'Ogene' style of Ibo highlife by De Coque, who unfortunately is also no longer with us. He died at the tender age of 61 in June, as Likembe reported (although he missed out the details of this report).

Actually this was one of the first Nigerian highlife tracks I heard, at the end of the 1970s. A Swiss musical explorer left me a copy of a cassette with -amongst many others- the A-side of this lp. This set me off on a quest to find more of this great artist, but this remained a favorite.



There is without a doubt still a strong element of tribalism in a lot of African countries.
I am not referring to the negative meaning of the word, as it is often used in western media to trivialise political disputes in African countries. I am talking about the strong sense of cultural identity, of being linked by a common or shared tradition. This is what links Debonheur to Franco.

And that's more than likely the reason why Debonheur is singing in their native Kikongo language about his fellow Bakongo (or should I write "Kongo"?) on this wonderfully raw cassette.

EDIT (March 4, 2010): extra link
EDIT June 10, 2013: I have renewed the downloadlink.
EDIT February 11, 2014: I have - once again - renewed the download link.
EDIT April 12, 2015: again the link has been refreshed.

October 24, 2008

More Mukanya

A slightly different version -than on the CD "Live At El Rey"- of "Marehwarehwa", with some great dancing by both Thomas Mapfumo and the backing chorus. Unfortunately cut in three (because of the length).

Watch this clip for a few times and it will stick in your mind forever....

October 22, 2008

Trio Select

Legend has it that Jean Gesner Henry (1925-1998) went from a career in professional football (soccer) to one as a singer/guitarist. I wrote "legend has it", because it seems unlikely that there was a professional football league at the end of the 1940's or in the early 1950's in Haiti.
Jean made a name for himself as a 'no-nonsense'defender, which earned him the nickname of Coupé Cloué ("cut and nail down").
Six years after his first musical steps he started Trio Crystal, which later evolved to Trio Select and, in the early 1970s, into L'Ensemble Select.

He became quite popular too in West Africa, where he was sometimes compared to Franco. A comparison based on his sometimes rude (spoken) lyrics and on his typical guitar style.

Personally I am not too keen about comparing artists. And in this case I don't think it does justice to Coupé Cloué to label his guitar style as "soukous". It has an originality of its own, as you hear in this superb record from 1970, - a languid and even outright sexual originality.....

MARC 215

UPDATE (Dec. 29, 2009): The file has been uploaded to another server and should be available again.

October 21, 2008


This is the first of a series of posts about a partnership that played a critical role in the development of African music, and more particularly Zimbabwean music: Jonah Sithole and Thomas Mapfumo.

In this first part the focus is on Jonah Sithole, the man who 'invented' the mbira style guitar playing.
Here are excerpts of an interview with Jonah, recorded March 16, 1996 in Amsterdam. Jonah passed away in Zimbabwe a year later. The other musician present is the -unfortunately also late- Alan Mwale. Between the excerpts are 'related' tracks.

A zip combining the 8 tracks cab be found here.

By the way: here you can find another version of "Moyo Wangu", with an explanation by Mukanya himself.
And here is an interview by Banning Eyre with Jonah Sithole.

PS: The links have been renewed on August 18, 2012.

Les Ambassadeurs

It has often surprised me that western media associate Salif Keita with the Rail Band de Bamako. Salif Keita was a member of this orchestra for less than 3 years. With Les Ambassadeurs he sung for much longer. Maybe it is true as Graeme Counsel suggests that he left the band in 1982. I saw him perform with Les Ambassadeurs in (if I remember correctly) 1985. At the legendary African Feeling concert in Paradiso (Amsterdam) they left the audience gasping for more...

I am not sure about the name of the track in this video from Malian television. In Guinea the track is mostly called "Were Were", but in Mali bands tend to favour names like "Ah N'Dianamo".
Besides Salif Keita and Manfila Kanté (lead guitar) you may recognize the rhythm guitar player, Amadou Bagayoko (of Amadou & Mariam*, formerly known as "Le Couple Aveugle"). And I would like to draw your attention to the trumpet player, Tagus Traoré, who has not only played with Les Ambassadeurs, but also with Le Nimba Jazz and a range of other orchestras in Guinea, as well as playing with Ernesto Djédjé in Abidjan (and who now lives in the Netherlands).

* It seems a huge injustice that they have got their own wikipedia page and Les Ambassadeurs don't.

October 19, 2008

Touba Auto K7

Most, if not all, of these tracks have been released on CD and I still prefer the cassettes from Touba Auto K7. Especially these from Number One de Dakar.

They feature Pape Seck, with his voice reminiscent of bars, red wine (of the type which no Frenchman will touch with a long pole) and loose women. Just listening to his voice transfers me to those places, in Dakar, Bamako....

Here is a list of the other musicians playing, and here's the second volume of these wonderful Touba Auto cassettes of Number One.

Farka (1)

"The John Lee Hooker of Africa". If there was one thing that got Ali Farka Touré going it was being labelled like this. "I don't know the blues", he told me several times, "I only know 'la tradition'".
And this he knew very well.

Culture to Ali was primarily man's interaction with nature. That's why farming to him was a logical step from being a travelling musician.

In future posts I will certainly post more of his work; and not the tracks which have been released on CD, but the more private recordings of this unique person, plus some excerpts of my talks with him.

Here is a cassette which Ali recorded in Mali in the 1980s, and which is one of my favorites (especially the 11'47 min. version of "Gambari"!!). It features Ali going wild on his electric guitar. It is one of two volumes produced by Mahmoudou Maïga in Bamako (I'll post the second one later if you like).

And to calm down after that cassette, here is a video from Malian television. Is there anyone who can tell me the name of this track?

October 17, 2008

Alhadji Haruna Ishola

A picture can say more than a thousand words

The late Alhadji Haruna Ishola is sitting in the middle (third from the right).

This is the top of the league, as far as apala music goes.

And within Haruna Ishola's extensive line of albums this is one of my favorites.

SRPS 32 NEW LINK Dec. 28, 2010

Please let me know if you want more.....

Carlito & Dindo Yogo

This is a unique clip from a tv show on Zairean television called "Tonton Skol". It features singers Carlito Lassan (at the time probably still with the TP OK Jazz) and Dindo 'La Voix Cassée' Yogo (either still with Langa Langa Stars or with Zaiko Langa Langa) in a track composed by Tabu Ley Rochereau when he was singing alongside Kabasele in the African Jazz orchestra. The orchestra accompanying this impromptu duo is Mbonda Africa of Johnny Bokelo (standing on the right playing guitar).

I have always been a fan of Carlito, ever since tracks like 'Maya', 'Affaire Kitikwala", "Bon Samaritain" and "Sisi"*. And Dindo Yogo has popped up regularly as someone I should take more notice of.

Both have disappeared now from the limelight. Dindo Yogo, because he passed away in 2000. And Carlito, because he is now known as Frère Carlito, i.e. -as too many Congolese artists- he has found religion.

There is more information about Dindo Yogo in this great article by Martin Sinnock.

*If you don't know these tracks, let me know and I'll post them.

October 16, 2008


Here's a second helping of music from Mali, but with a different flavour.

Wande Kouyaté is a djeli from a traditional Malinké griot family. She is one of the 'older' generation of Malian divas and has been a diva for quite a long time.

This cassette from 1986 is remarkable not just by the quality of Wande's singing, but also by the wonderful authentic ambience of the recording. I am certain that this recording was not made in a studio. It's too dynamic, too 'live', too real.

cassette 2212


To really enjoy the full effect of the bala you have to go to West Africa. Preferably on a warm, humid night, with the sound of cicadas filling the background. When the bala player (or balafo) really gets going the gourds will start to hum - and the spirits will awake.

As I said, you'll have to go there yourself to experience this. Don't take my word.

I hate to disappoint you, but this cassette doesn't produce the same effect. But if anyone can get close it's Molobali Keita*. He's from the Sikasso region of Mali, and one of those artists that are at risk of remaining anonymous in the West (like Karamoko Keita). He has produced a string of cassettes (neatly numbered), and I can recommend any of those, or all if you can find them (and if you do, let me know!).

There are a few wonderful clips (here and here) on YouTube, if you want to see the master at work.

And here is the fourth volume of the series.

*or Molobaly

October 14, 2008


There are times when I am not too unhappy about my lack of knowledge of languages like Lingala, Swahili, Twi or Yoruba. Even with the very few African languages that I do understand a tiny bit I get irritated by the over-the-top religiousness of some lyrics.

I have a feeling this might be the case as well with the lyrics of Ebenezer Obey.
I have read somewhere that he used to be a sinner. Drinking, loose morals and a dose of debauchery, I suppose.
Until religion came into his life.

Maybe it's those traces of a life of vice that attract me to his earlier work. Here's a wonderful cassette from 1975 by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey and his Inter-Reformers* Band.

It comes with a warning: do not play it while driving a car on a motorway with a speed limit!!

*known before (in those drinking days) as the International Brothers Band

October 12, 2008

The magic of Franco

A key track in the oeuvre of Franco is the 1974 song "Kinzonzi Kitata Mbenda*". Composed and recorded in a time when Mobutu was at the height of his power. In an attempt to create his own version of a négritude movement he had 'africanised' Congo into Zaïre, and had ordained that all culture must comply with the standards of Authenticité.
It was a time of intellectual challenges. In the OK Jazz these were met by Lutumba Simaro's poetic masterpieces "Ebale Ya Zaïre" and "Mabele".
Franco, ever the man of the common Congolese, complied with the song "Kinzonzi Kitata Mbenda".

The text does little to explain the deeper meaning:
Let me go (away), (for) the palabre is in the blood. Ask Papa Mbemba, mama (2x)
Chorus:Eh, eh, ask Papa Mbemba
Papa Mbemba, the palabre is in the blood, (so) they have lied to the people of Kinshasa, mama
Papa Mbemba, the palabre is in the blood, (so) they have lied to those from Zongo, my father
Let me go (away) eh eh. Let me go (away), mama
Papa Mbemba, the palabre is in the blood, (so) they have lied to schoolchildren, mama

The deeper meaning of this song was revealed to us by Ntesa Dalienst. You can hear his explanation (in French) here. Translated:
It means this: the elders, when you go to a family meeting (palabre) you have to get the young involved, so that the young listen and see what you are doing. Because that's the way the tradition is learned. You shouldn't say to a child "do this, do that". No, your child, you should invite him to the family meeting. And now, the child sees and listens, and it teaches him, doesn't it. And he grows up with that and he grows up with that maturity. There's no school where you can take children to learn tradition. There isn't one.
That's what Franco wants to say in this song.
So the school of tradition is to involve children, even the youngest, in the family meeting. They listen, they see what happens, and in the long run, they grow up, up, up, - and he too now he can give... Voilà - there is a discussion in the family, and the child, he also can cut in, because he will continue what the elders have done. Because tradition doesn't change. It's all that has been said and all that will continue, like. That's the way it moves on. You shouldn't go to school to go and learn tradition.
The lark can't say to his child: "look, we're going to do this". No, he takes off and says to his child "follow me". The child follows and sees what his mother is doing, how she lands, and he goes "ah...". So, life is like that. So Franco - all that, that's what he was singing.
That's the magic of Franco. Even the tumba, the conga [mimics conga playing] that's tradition. That was the magic of Franco (.... [unintelligible])
Do you know why? Because Franco, he followed his mother. To every family meeting. For example there is this song which was sung.. For example, now you and Stefan have a dispute. And this dispute has taken enormous proportions. And to talk about it you have invited people to sit down and sort it out. Now, when they come there is an old man who wants to give you an advice. And instead of talking to you he wants to sing you a song.
For example, Gerard is wrong and you are right, and instead of only saying to Gerard "you are wrong", I will use a song. "Gerard, you shouldn't give the wrong which you have to Stefan (you shouldn't blame S. for your error). Accept that you're wrong and take it unflinchingly". Instead of sáying that he will sing a song. [sings a line from Kinzonzi Kitata Mbenda] So, Gerard, don't give your wrong to Stefan, accept that you were wrong and the problem will be resolved. So this song existed before this old men was born, before you too would be born. Do you see? Because he went to the family meetings - which gave him this experience - instead of saying "we'll do this, we'll do that. Shut up [? unintelligible]. No not that!" Well-mannered, he only sings one song, and you understand "ah, but yes, this old man is right...."

I have tried to stick to the French, so you can follow Ntesa's words.

The track is in Kikongo, the language of Franco's mother. It can be heard here.
Other tracks in Kikongo by the (TP) OK Jazz:
Nda-ya (by Mpudi Decca - not the whole track is in Kikongo)

* it is very likely that the title was misspelled on the album. According to Congolese sources it should be "Kinzonzi Ki Tata Mbemba" ("the palabre of Papa Mbemba").

The last track

One of the last tracks which Franco himself released was "Lukoki". He recorded other tracks which were released after his death, but I make the distinction between those tracks and "Lukoki" on "Franco joue avec Sam Mangwana" (REM 850), because le Grand Maître didn't have the final say in the production. And this can be heard in the result....

"Lukoki" was recorded in Brussels in the week before Christmas with only a few musicians of the TP OK Jazz: Dizzy Mandjeku (second lead guitar), Mpudi Decca (bass) and Bosuma Dessoin (conga). Here is a clip of this final masterpiece, sung in Kikongo, - with photos from the concert a month later in Amsterdam.
Alternatively here is the audio track.

More to follow.

19 Years

Today I would like to dedicate a few posts to the memory of one of Africa's Greatests: Franco Luambo Makiadi. Exactly 19 years have passed since Franco passed away in a hospital in Namur, Belgium (and not in Brussels as the article on the right states).

It didn't come as a great surprise to us who had seen him three weeks before in the Melkweg. A shadow of his former self, even compared to the thin figure we had seen in January. It hurt to see a man we had come to love and admire battle with his own mortality (and even when I write this I am reliving the pain of that night).

In retrospect it is said that he predicted his own death, in "Kimpa Kisangameni", recorded and released in 1983. Ntesa Dalienst (who unfortunately is also no longer with us) explained to us the meaning behind the words. Ntesa's explanation (in French) can be heard at the end of this YouTube clip.

He asks his mother to open her eyes. The sorcerer is entering into the family to eliminate everyone. Bavon Marie Marie has gone, if mother doesn't take care they'll all go, and you will be left. And who is going to bury you?
That's what Franco was saying to his mother.
So: "Kimpa Kisangameni".... so, "sorcery has entered into the family / there are people that want to hurt us / Mama, open your eyes / if not, you will be left on earth, with no sons to bury you".

And unfortunately that's what has happened: Bavon Marie Marie is gone and Franco too has gone and Mama was left behind.

Here is the audio (and stereo) version of Kimpa Kisangameni, taken from the lp "Chez Rythmes et Musiques à Paris" (Edipop POP 032).

October 11, 2008

Corned beef

This is a clip from the documentary 'Spirits of Defiance' which has really stuck in my mind. It's not about music, but about culture; and to be more precise about perception. The director/producer has brilliantly succeeded in portraying the point of view of the Mangbetu, who used to be cannibals.

This clip is about sorcery, a subject familiar to anyone who has ever wandered off the tourist path in Africa. And it offers a refreshing look on western religion.

PS: it's from a video recorded on Betamax and later copied to VHS, - so please excuse the quality...


This videoclip by Ibrahim Hamma Dicko is more than a tune with moving pictures. It offers some insight into the negotiations that are a central part of a traditional marriage proposal in Mali.

Ibrahim is sometimes compared to (the late) Ali Farka Touré, but this is plain rubbish. Ali had a far more profound knowledge of the diverse traditions of Mali's Northern regions.

The Godfather

Cuco Valoy started his extensive musical career with his brother Martin. The duo went by the name of Los Ahijados, which can mean "the godsons" or "the foster sons". This must be a reference to the legendary Cuban son duo Los Compadres, who they considered to be their musical padres.

Cuco later set off on a slightly different road, with his band Los Virtuosos and later La Tribu.

Lately he is better known in his native Dominican Republic as the father of Ramón Orlando (one of his fourteen sons).

Maybe I am looking in the wrong place, but the albums of Los Ahijados appear to be very hard to find. That's a pity, as I am sure you will agree after listening to this wonderful double album. It's filled with the unique Ahijados mix of son and merengue. As an added bonus this album contains some brilliant tracks featuring an organ. My (most) favorite tracks are 'Dos Almas' (Two souls) (which I only knew as a kind of chachacha by Sonora Matancera) and 'Solito Con Las Estrellas' (Alone with the stars).

CD 1349/1350-2 (new link April 12, 2015)

October 10, 2008

Festac Explosion (Vol.1)

In case you are wondering: I have plenty more in store this weekend. So I want to get this one out of the way (so to speak).

I was inspired not just by a request after the post of the second volume, but also by the post on Highlife Haven of another great Osadebe album and the posting of some older tracks on Likembe. Keep it coming, folks!

I will certainly post some more in the future.

EDIT December 28, 2010: I've uploaded the file to another server.

EDIT May 2, 2013: I've uploaded an improved version to yet another server!!

October 09, 2008


Franco was probably in Europe when the TP OK Jazz was asked to appear in a Christmas show on Zairean television. It was 1986 and he was making plans and laying out the strategy to finally conquer Europe in 1987. Concerts were booked and albums were imagined.
Meanwhile, back in Zaïre, the remaining musicians are 'making do' without le Grand Maître*.
Of course, we are talking about the Almighty OK Jazz, so 'making do' is still in a league of its own....

This clip features a young Malage De Lugendo, accompanied by -amongst others- the composer Lutumba Simaro on rhythm guitar (I just love the bit when he can't resist singing along with his own lyrics), Dizzy Mandjeku and Gerry Dialungana on lead.

And all acoustic.

If this isn't a classic................

Part 1

Part 2

*I'm just kidding: in fact the orchestra always rehearsed without Franco.

Fodé Nara

I have been waiting impatiently for years, hoping that one day this cassette will be released in its full glory. This hope was fed by the release on CD of the "Nama" lp.
Shortly after buying the cassette in Bamako I heard (and recorded) a bit of the track "Fodé Nara" on Malian radio. From this I know that there must be a better quality original somewhere. Twenty years later it still hasn't surfaced.

What has surfaced is a overproduced (by Ibrahima Sylla*) version of "Fodé Nara" on an lp (and later CD) by singer Kasse Mady Diabaté.
I hasten to add that I very much like Kasse Mady, and I think he's a great singer of the Malinké repertoire of the legendary Siramori Diabaté. But Kasse Mady is at his best supported by a full strength orchestra, singing and rocking his shoulders in his grand boubou as only he can. And what better orchestra is there to support Kasse Mady than National Badema, one of the national orchestras of Mali.

Listen to this (and in particular the moving version of "Tessiry Magan") and you'll know what I mean.

National Badema du Mali - Lamda

Technical notes: the cassette was sold to me without a cover. I soon found out that the titles printed on the cassette were in the wrong order, and that one track had no matching title.

*this link does not imply that I agree with one word of this wikipedia entry. I suspect it was either written by himself or by a close relative.....

EDIT (March 4, 2010): extra link

October 08, 2008

Tuning Che

I hesitated posting this cassette by Nicolas Menheim et le Super Sabador, because I had heard that it had been released on CD. After some research (i.e. listening to the CD) I have concluded that cassette and CD are not the same.

For one thing, the cassette is entirely out of tune. Far from being irritating, this gives the cassette a unique 'edge'.
And then the tracks are just not the same either.

Judge for yourself.

October 07, 2008

Le guitariste hawaien

Elenga Zacharie, better known as Jhimmy, was one of the founding fathers of modern Congolese music. Coming from what is now known as the Central African Republic, he came to Leopoldville to work as a shorthand typist with the Solbena trading firm of the Benatar brothers. When the Benatar brothers started the Opika record label, Jhimmy started his career as guitariste. His stage name was taken from American country legend Jimmy Rodgers.

His first hit was a track called "Ondruwe" which co-starred his Angolan friend Mwanga Paul, who also composed the track "Henriette" on the other side of the record. When others -like Kabasele, Goby, Déchaud and Taumani- came to the Opika label and became 'stars', Jhimmy faded into the background.

Here are four tracks recorded in April 1951. The group accompanying Jhimmy was called the Cuban Jazz orchestre. The main vocalist is Mwanga Paul.
I have added two tracks from 1952, of a slightly better quality, with some lovely plucking from Jhimmy and Mwanga Paul crooning away. My favorite is "Likambo Te", which I am told translates as "there is no problem"...... Very true.

Opika 431, 432 and 458 (new link March 4, 2010)

October 06, 2008

Dar Es Salaam Jazz Band

I don't know anything about this cassette by the Dar Es Salaam Jazz Band, apart from what I can hear. And that's enough to post it.
This very enjoyable cassette contains a great version of Franco's Course Au Pouvoir.

If anyone has more info about this band, please let me know.


October 05, 2008

Pioneers of Malian music (2)

Alou Fané and Daouda 'Flani' Sangaré were born in the Ganadugu district of the Sikasso or Kénédugu region of Mali. In the traditional caste system the Fané family is a family of blacksmiths, while Sangaré is a Peul or Fula family. As such they are linked by tradition, as a Peul is the only one who can joke with a blacksmith (traditionally having a position of power and mystic force).

Together, they set the rules for the kamelan n'goni music. In most cases with Alou playing the kamelan n'goni and Flani singing.

In the late 1960s they joined the Ballet National du Mali as musicians and dancers. And in the Ballet they met dancer/djembé player Zani Diabaté. The three decided to start a private orchestra as a sideline to their work with the Ballet, the Djata Band.

I certainly will be posting more of Alou's work in future posts.

Here is a track from a concert at the 1984 Angoulême festival featuring Alou Fané as the lead vocalist, and with Flani, Zani and Alou demonstrating their dancing skills.
I don't know the title of this track, and am almost convinced that this track was never published in any form.

The brink of disaster

Sleeve notes:
''Orchestra Makassy, the brainchild of Mzee Makassy himself, has taken audiences all over East Africa by storm. Their blend of pure Kiswahili and Zairois rhythms have captured the hearts of music lovers who have constantly demanded this set of Makassy's greatest hits.
The popularity of the group has not come without its share of disappointments and it has entailed great work from Mzee Makassy. The group would perhaps have been a household name sooner had it not been for the unexpected and tragic knifing of the lead singer Isiak Baharia, alias Gobby. This sad event caused great turmoil but from the ashes of the former group Mzee Makassy moulded his present band with the considerable help of Rammy Ongara and Fan Fan from OK Jazz. These were then supplemented with Aimala Mbutu, Simaroo on Solo guitar, Kadesi on Bass, Batty on Rhythm and Adam Seye on Trumpet (also formerly with OK Jazz) amongst the others in the group.
Thus the Orchestra Makassy, whose emblem of the elephant and drum has become famous in such a short space of time, has brought some of the finest musicians together from the brink of disaster to the top of the charts. Here now are Makassy's greatest hits - the first set of many from this fine band."

"Rammy Ongara"? Remmy and Adam Seye in the OK Jazz? Who has this man been talking too?

Anyway, here is this great 1981 album from Orchestra Makassy.

EDIT March 29, 2012: I've 'refreshed' the link (yet again).

October 04, 2008


It is sad to see African artists rising to fame solely because a western producer thinks he has found a 'star'. And it is even sadder to see that, just because these artists have 'made it' (or are perceived to have made it) in Europe, the States and/or Japan, they rise to stardom in their own country, - where nobody wanted to know them before.

By contrast, there are many artists whose songs have been deeply rooted into the memories of vast amount of Africans, but who will always be considered as being too 'local' for global distribution. One of these is 'Tasidoni' Karamoko Keita. BIG in Bamako in the eighties. Children were singing his tunes.

I don't know where he is today. But his music shouldn't be forgotten.
Here is a video from Malian television, and this time in full colour.
Isn't he great?

The consistent highlife king

To me Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe has always been just that: the consistent highlife king. I mean, you can buy any of his albums. They are all great.

My first lp of the -unfortunately late- chief was cleverly disguised as the work of the 'People Star'. It took me a while to find out who this master of mental massage really was.
By then I had already found the first volume too.

I have never understood why the albums are called Festac Explosion 77. They were recorded four years earlier in 1973. It is suggested that the release under a different name was due to "a licensing or copyright dispute", or that this record is a 'pirate' record. There may be a link with the departure in 1973 of members of Osadebe's orchestra to form the Ikenga Super Stars.

But who cares, - after listening to this?

EDIT (June 15, 2013): I've removed the dead link...