December 18, 2008

Syli Orchestre National

Formed in 1959, the Syli Orchestre National contained Guinea's elite musicians. The orchestra represented Guinea at international festivals, including Helsinki (1962), Algiers (1969), and Tunis (1973), as well as performing in Berlin, Lagos and Cuba. The first chef d'orchestre was Kanfory Sanoussi (accordion, banjo and vibraphone), with other musicians at the time including Kerfala “Papa” Diabaté (guitar), Balla Onivogui (trumpet), Kélétigui Traoré (tenor saxophone), Clement Dorego (tenor saxophone), Honore Coppet (alto saxophone), Momo Wandel (alto saxophone), Pivi Moriba (trombone), Kerfala Camara (bass), and Jean Fanga (drums). In later years the orchestre included Demba Camara (vocals) and Sékou "Bembeya" Diabaté (lead guitar). In 1962 they were disbanded, as they were too many musicians, though the orchestra were reformed for special occasions for many years to come. At the Premier Festival Culturel Panafricain held in Algiers in 1969 the Syli Orchestre Nationale performed "Regard sur le passé", by Bembeya Jazz, "Sara", by Balla et ses Balladins, and other material from Guinean orchestras. They were rewarded with a silver medal in the "Orchestre moderne" section.
Graeme Counsel (here)

Here is a video from the concert in 1969, featuring the legendary singer Aboubacar Demba Camara, and Sekou Diabaté 'le Docteur' (Balladins) and a young Sekou Diabaté 'Bembeya' on guitar, and Sekou Legrow (he's the one with the silly walk at the beginning), Balla, Kélétigui, Pivi and lots of other superb musicians.

The energy, the drive, the music, the voice: this is top of the league music from Guinea!*

*"O.U.A." (referring to the Organisation of African Unity) is a version of a track by the Orchestre de Beyla (i.e. Bembeya Jazz) on Syliphone SLP 5.


trumpetaaa said...

fantastic to see those guys playing live wonderful
many thanks

zim said...

utterly fantastic, thanks - where did you find this?

matt said...

amazing are like a magpie..sitting on endless treasures it seems

paska said...

This is some service! Thanks a lot!! Oh, they´ve been in finland too. Only I was not born then.

kissmynoose said...

Heartfelt thanks for the posting of this marvelous video. I never know what to expect from your treasure trove, but this took me completely by surprise. Like most people, I have never seen film of the majority of the great musicians who make up this 'super group', and was not aware that any film of them existed, especially of them playing at their prime. There are some videos of Bembeya Jazz on the net, but they post-date the death in 1973 of singer Aboubacar Demba Camara, and I am not aware of any film of the Balla and Keletigui orchestras. Now that I do some research, I find that on Graeme Counsel's site he refers to another video from the same concert of the song 'Sara'. If you happen to have that video, it would be wonderful if you could post it. Kemo Kouyaté is in the video you posted, and it would be a rare treat to see him play the guitar part that he recorded a little later (presumably) on "Sara '70'" with Balla et ses Balladins.

Unfortunately, Sekou 'Docteur' Diabaté is not in this particular performance by the Syli Orchestre National. I think I would almost rather see film of him than of Robert Johnson himself! His fellow guitarists from Les Balladins - and later Myriam Makeba's Quintette Guinéenne - are present: Kemo Kouyaté (rhythm) and Famoro Kouyaté (bass). However, Sekou 'Docteur' Diabaté's place on lead is taken by the other Sekou Diabaté 'Bembeya', aka 'Diamond Fingers'.

I believe I can identify all of the musicians in this video, with the exception of the alto saxophonist in the white jacket. If anyone can recognise him, or has a list of the musicians who played at this July 1969 festival in Algiers, it would be great to have the information. Those musicians who are recognisable, or whose presence can be surmised, are (from right to left):

- Kemo Kouyaté - rhythm guitar. Balla et ses Balladins, Quintette Guinéenne
- Famoro Kouyaté - bass guitar. Balla et ses Balladins, Quintette Guinéenne
- Aboubacar Demba Camara - vocals. Bembeya Jazz
- Sekou 'Bembeya' Diabaté aka 'Diamond Fingers' - lead guitar. Bembeya Jazz
- Unknown in white jacket - alto saxophone
- Momo 'Wandel' Soumah - alto saxophone. Keletigui et ses Tambourinis (dancing)
- Kélétigui Traoré - tenor saxophone. Keletigui et ses Tambourinis
- Pivi Moriba - trombone. Balla et ses Balladins

- Probably: Mory 'Mangala' Condé - drums (switches to congas at end). Bembeya Jazz
- Probably: Siaka Diabaté - congas. Bembeya Jazz
There are only fleeting glimpses of these two percussionists. However, these glimpses don't match any of the other possible drums/congas duos - from les Balladins and Quintette Guinéenne: Abdou 'Tumbas' Camara/Amadou Thiam, or from les Tambourinis: Sylla Kaba/Papa Kouyaté.

Three trumpet players (from nearest to furthest from the audience):
- Probably: Mohamed 'Achken' Kaba. Bembeya Jazz
- Probably: Balla Onivogui. Balla et ses Balladins
- Sekou 'Le Grow' Camara. Bembeya Jazz

It is very frustrating that the camera looks everywhere BUT Balla when he steps forward to take his solo! It is impossible to make out Mohamed 'Achken' Kaba from the shadowy profile in the video. However, a photo printed on the back cover of SLP15 shows Le Syli Orchestre National at the Algiers festival, and includes 'Achken' playing trumpet alongside Sekou 'Le Grow' Camara. In this photo, all the musicians except Kélétigui are wearing white jackets, so it appears that the orchestre played at the festival on more than one occasion.

What a dream to travel back in time, and also take in the jazz sets from the same festival, documented on BYG-Actuel. I understand there is a documentary shot at the festival by director: William Klein. It would be interesting to know whether the documentary includes any footage of Guinean musicians.

WrldServ said...

(What a great nickname, by the way! A reference to a track that is mysterious in both its lyrics and its origin.)

I do have more of this concert, including "Sara" and will post it as soon as I have some time.

Thanks the details about the line-up. Maybe/hopefully the uncertainties will be resolved with the other songs.

Anonymous said...

I've been watching the video of OAU and Sara (which is incredible - Mr Wrldserv please put it up), which I got from the RTG. My video fades out during Sara. I have a feeling there is more footage. I also have an audio tape of an entire Algiers concert (they played more than one night). Tracks are Regard sur le Passe / Ballake / Ilole gbanina / Sara / Koukou.

Musicians from left to right.

trumpeters -
Mohammed Achken Kaba
Unknown, but he wears glasses - never seen Balla wear glasses
Sekou Le Growl Camara

Mory Mangala - drums
Siaka Diabate - percussion

Pivi Moriba - trombone (plays trumpet in Sara)

Fode Ndiaye Soumah (maybe) - tenor sax
Momo Wandel - alto sax (solos in Sara)
Keletigui Traore - tenor sax (in white jacket)

Sekou Bembeya Diabate - lead guitar

Demba Camara (vocals)
Petit Fode Diabate (vocal duet in Sara)

Kemo Kouyaté - rhythm guitar (plays the solo in Sara - a great close-up)
Famoro Kouyaté - bass guitar


Graeme said...

I have returned from Guinea and verified the musicians in the clips. They are -

Mohammed Achken Kaba
Mamadou Niaissa
Sekou “Le Growl” Camara

Mory Mangala - drums
Siaka Diabate - percussion

Pivi Moriba - trombone (plays trumpet in Sara)

Fode Ndiaye Soumah - tenor sax
Momo Wandel - alto sax
Keletigui Traore – chef d’orchestre (in white jacket) - tenor sax

Sekou Bembeya Diabate - lead guitar

Demba Camara (vocals)
Petit Fode Diabate (vocal duet in Sara)

Balla did not go to Algiers.