May 28, 2010

No. 2

In a culture where tradition, or the passing on of skills, an art or customs from one generation to the next, is almost part of the genetic material of the people, it is not rare to see a son following in the footsteps of his father. In Mali there are loads of examples of musical sons or daughters of famous musical fathers and/or mothers. This post is about one of these: Lamissa Bengaly No.2.

His father, Lamissa Bengaly (who would have guessed it..) is revered in Mali as one of the pilars (and in Mali it is more likely that they would call him a "great tree" - or "yiriba") of Malian culture. But I doubt that many Malians even understand a word of his lyrics, because Lamissa sang in minianka. Nevertheless his influence was strong, although perhaps more as a promotor of the balafon music of the Sikasso region in general and the animistic minianka culture of eastern Mali in particular. Born in a village in the Nkourala cercle not far from the town of Sikasso, Lamissa has had a great influence too on the singing style of bala music. You can find one of his (unfortunately rare) cassettes on the Wassoulou blog. And here three tracks on an even rarer lp* with a selection of Malian music. These tracks are not credited to Lamissa on the lp, but Daouda Sangaré, who grew up listening to Lamissa's music assured me it was him.

Lamissa Bengaly on the lp "Musique du Mali"

But, as I mentioned before, this post is about his son, and about his music. It is surprising, however, how little information there is about Lamissa No.2. I have been told that he mainly sings in bambara, and not in minianka; and although I suspect this is right, I can't actually confirm this. Maybe this is the reason that he is never mentioned as his father's heir....

This cassette, released in 1998, can compete with the best. The emphasis in this cassette is more on the singing than on the bala, although the bala is very nice. The rhythms are slower than for example Molobaly Keita and Neba Solo, and this sets off the vocals even more. This is a cassette that has grown on me, - but I have had to listen to it for quite a few times before it did.

Lamissa Bengaly No.2 (cassette Sory Labita, 1998)

I would like to round off this 'week' of bala music with a video, posted by Ngoniba, of the legendary Lamissa Bengaly (the father, that is).

PS: and this doesn't mean there won't be more bala music coming in this blog...

* I am still trying to dig up the rest of this lp. I'm sure I have it - somewhere....

May 27, 2010

Liwa ya Mayaula

Regretfully another musical hero has passed away. Mayaula Mayoni, composer of such immortal hits as "Cherie Bondowe", "Bondoki", "Nabali Misere" and many others, has died in Brussels on May 26, 2010.

He not only gained fame for his talent as a composer, rhythm guitar player and singer, but also as a football (soccer) player, with A.S Vita Club. He was never a member of Franco's Tout Puissant O.K. Jazz, but certainly a longtime associate.
More biographical details on his Facebook page.

To commemorate this great Congolese musician, I would like to post a selection of his greatest hits.

Mayaula in memoriam

Furthermore I am borrowing these videos posted by Aboubacar Siddikh, of two great compositions by the late Mayaula.

May his soul rest in peace.

May 25, 2010

Meditative interlude

This time two sides with very different moods by the late king of apala music, Alhadji Haruna Ishola. On side A a more contemplative medley, with the agidigbo adding commas to the subliminal messages of the talking drum, and on side B a slightly perturbing, perhaps even haunted mood - plus a certainly memorable 3D* chorus.

Enough to refresh the mind, before I post some more bala wonders......

Star Records N4

* and why can't a chorus be 3D too?

May 23, 2010

CAN 2002

If you thought Molobaly was too modern I advise you to skip this one. Souleymane Traoré, better known under his stage name Neba Solo*, is musically far closer to the "Balani Show" style than Molobaly.

I met him once at Mali K7 in Bamako, and he appeared to be a rather shy young guy, - quite a contrast to his somewhat boisterous manager. So I suspect the addition of several 'modern effects' may have been inspired by the french engineer at Studio Bogolan. The dosage is rather modest though...

This cassette was recorded with a definite commercial purpose. It was to be a 'hit' at the African Nation Cup, which was held in Mali in January 2002. Should you be interested in who won, by the way, on this wikipedia page are all the results.
At the time of these recordings Neba Solo had already had 'hit CD' on the market, titled "Kenedougou Foly". This CD was released on the European market in 1998.

All this talk about markets in my opinion is reflected in the music. Personally Neba Solo is trying too hard on this cassette. And I am sure the studio engineers have shown him the way to 'conquer the markets'.
Especially vocally Neba falls short of the mark. Not only compared to others, like Molobaly Keita or popular young stars like Dabara, but also compared to his first cassette ("Hommage A Lamissa Bangaly", which I will post later) or even to his "Kenedougou Foly" CD.
The instrumentation does, however, make up for a lot.......

CAN 2002 (Mali K7, and - remarkably - no number)
Extra link (MF): CAN 2002

A video clip of the second track of this cassette can be found here (or here). And a live version recorded 5 years ago in Ntogonasso (which, judging by the name, I guess to be somewhere near Sikasso) of the first track on side B here.
And finally here is a video from Malian television, shared by Ngoni on his very promising YouTube channel.

* a stage name which I gather carries a reference to the village of Nebadougou where he was born, plus to his own first name.

May 22, 2010

Drum and.... bala

Continuing the bala theme , I am returning to an artist of whom I have already posted two cassette (here and here). Molobaly Keita appears to have been at the basis of a new phenomenon in Malian youth culture, and more particularly - and more remarkably - urban youth culture.

In the villages of Mali (especially in the southern part of the country) balafon groups have been entertaining children and women for ages. These groups, usually of musicians who also play in larger ensemble at ceremonies and festivities, perform in the street or on any 'square' or opening in the village. Parties like these are part of passing on the culture, and for the children an occasion to practice - or even compete on - their dancing skills.

Over the last ten years, these bala parties have moved to the city. They have taken the place of the Sabar dancing parties or "Sabarni", which for their increasingly indecent and immoral character were banned from the streets of Bamako in the early years of this century. Apparently female dancers were showing off more thigh and behind than the public morals deemed respectable.
The "Balani* show" street parties took their place in the teenage culture of Bamako. As the word suggests, the key instrument in these parties was the balafon.

Personally I think the music of (artists like) Molobaly Keita must have played an essential role in this urbanisation of the village bala parties. And more precisely: this very cassette. For it is the first cassette in which Molobaly used a drumkit.
As I have written before, it took me some time to get used to the drumkit. But I can see now that this opened the way to a completely new 'use' of this - essentially traditional - music.
To give you a better idea of the "Balani show" phenomenon I advise you to watch this very interesting video (in french, - but if you're interested I'll translate it).

Unfortunately it appears that the "Balani show" has taken, like the "Sabarni" before, a turn for the worse. First there were rumours of nightly disturbances and a first call to ban the parties. Then came reports of weapons and people being killed. More recently the calls to ban the parties seem to have grown louder, so it may be just a matter of time before we see the end of the "Balani show".
At least, in Bamako. In the villages there always be bala parties. And in the city....maybe they will continue, but just for children.

Here is Molobaly Keita's third cassette. It features amongst others the track "Signana Tolo" of which I have posted a video earlier.

IK 010 cassette

More bala to follow soon....

* The extension "-ni" signifies "small". So "Balani" is "little bala". It is used like "-ito" in many latin countries...

May 18, 2010

The very last recordings

I am sure you won't mind if I keep this very short.

POLP 517

EDIT December 21, 2016: extra link, this time @ 320 kbps

May 17, 2010

Balafon bwaba

This post is dedicated to another musical hero who is at risk of disappearing into the dark mist of time. Already you - like me - will find it hard to find any information about this maestro of the bwaba balafon* from Burkina Faso. The fact that his first name is more than likely incorrectly spelled on this cassette makes the challenge even greater. And his family name is not only common in circles of burkinabe music, but almost synonymous with the bwaba balafon.

Aladari Dembelé was, however, also something of a one-hit star. "Was", because unfortunately he is no longer with us; he died on Sunday, February 13, 2005, after a prolonged period of illness, which had kept him from performing for several years. Born in the Kossi province in the Boucle de Mouhoun region of Burkina Faso, Aladari seems to have lived a fairly anonymous life as a musician, until in 1988 he recorded and released this cassette titled "Sodassiya".

The song was sung in dioula, which meant it had a potential audience not just in Burkina Faso, but in the whole of West-Africa. It is a comical tale about a deserter (i.e. from military service). Unconfirmed sources claim that it is a true story and that the deserter (allegedly from the colonial forces) was in fact Aladari himself.
Those with some knowledge of the french language will perhaps be able to grasp (part of) the gist of the story, - especially when keeping in mind that many of the words referring to 'western inventions' and the military were borrowed from the french. And I wouldn't be surprised if "Voyassi", the title of the song on the B-side of the cassette, was actually "voyage"....
The interjecting of a few of these semi-french words usually acts a trigger to my (admittedly overactive) imagination, and tends to make me even more curious about the lyrics (and not just in west-african music).

Note, by the way, the exceptional quality of this cassette. My guess is that this is also due to the strikingly forceful sound of the bwaba balafon. And to illustrate this I am adding one video, borrowed from fababobo, and some links to other bawaba videos (which as it happens are from the same remarkable source).

cass FA 016/VL4

Other videos:
Tegneni Dembelé
Tegneni Dembelé (yes, again)
Sanfo Dembelé

* You may have noticed that the new podcast too is dedicated to this instrument. In fact, there will be more balafon this week. If you like, you can even call it bala week at the Worldservice!

May 15, 2010

Virtual Laba

After a winter and spring with a disproportionate amount of cold and (especially) snow, one has a tendency to pine for a touch of warm sunshine. At the moment there is, I am sorry to say, not a lot more one can do. Although already in May, the sun here in the Netherlands appears to have adapted itself to the economic climate....

So, in tune with the times, there is only one thing for it: let's go virtual!
Luckily I only need one thing to conjure up this virtual world: the music of Laba Sosseh.

This is the second of three volumes on the M.A.G. label (and I have posted the first here). Soundwise the first is marginally better, and in general the records on this label are perhaps not up to scratch. But if you are looking for music that will make you sweat instantly, this is it. The record starts with a second version of that Cuban evergreen "El Manisero". This version is very different from the "version Sangomar" on Volume 1, while retaining some key elements, notably the idiot trumpet after 2'22 (who this time appears to be playing from behind the bar...). The trumpet player resurfaces in several of the songs on side A; in the classic "Senegal An X" (after 1'29) he is still behind the bar, but has finished off some - if not most - of the alcoholic stock.

The songs on the B-side feature Dexter Johnson. His sax certainly adds to the level of sultriness. Just a few notes and I am off to search for some ice cubes.

Another track repeated from Volume 1 is "Seyni Kay Fonema", which on Volume 1 was called "Seyni". This is arguably Laba Sosseh's most famous song, and was even covered by Rochereau and his African Fiesta.
"Aminata" is also redone, but personally I prefer the subtle version of Volume 1.

Another favourite is Sosseh's cover of Charlie Palmieri's "Salsa Na'Ma'", - although it is as close to Palmieri original as a packet of chicken soup to chicken.

But all of the songs on this lp are really warm favourites, - and could probably even provoke a virtual heatwave on the north pole....

Disques M.A.G. 103

P.S.: Going by a few singles (which I may post later) I think the orchestra on the A-side is called "Super Conjunto", and the one on the B-side the "Super Star de Dakar".

May 09, 2010

Best of taarab

I am venturing into unknown territory in this post. I have to admit that normally I am not a great fan of taarab music. I suspect this may be because most of the recordings I have heard are too sedate, too polite. I have - with a, over time, growing reluctancy - heard quite a number of taarab recordings, and have come to the conclusion that "let's go crazy" hardly seems to apply to the taarab music I have heard. The more modern recordings even appear to have suppressed the passion and spiritual energy which can be detected in older recordings like those of the classic "Songs The Swahili Sing" collection.

The cassette I would like to share with you in this post carries the title of "Best of Taarab Songs Vol.1". And this may sound pretentious, but I prefer to see it as a challenge: if you have better taarab songs, please share them with us!!
The cassette was bought by a friend in Nairobi in 1988. Apart from the titles the cassette contains no information about artists, so there is another challenge in this: can anyone help us out with the artist(s)?
I wouldn't be surprised, by the way, if the whole cassette was by the same group.

Among the songs that stand out amidst this wealth of quality taarab songs are a speedy "Mbona Mwatufuja", a piercing "Mapenzi Yaku Nichumu", a spine tingling "Zuhura" (a reference to the singer?) and a strangely haunting "Roho Yangu".

Please don't hesitate to point us in the direction of even more remarkable taarab artists.....

CS KSS 117 (new link - November 30, 2016)

May 04, 2010


Here is another video by the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali, and again the leading singer is Djelimadi Sissoko II.
But this time the video, probably recorded in the 1990s by Malian television, is in colour.

The song performed is "Soundiata", the Manding epic. The older female singer, by the way, is Nantenedie Kamissoko.

I just love these huge chorusses and the full squadron of instrumentalists, and it's even better live (so if you ever get a chance...).

May 02, 2010


This is a first in this blog. Normally I don't post CD's. But in this case the CD has been out of production for a long time, - and even when it was in production it was extremely hard to get.

In the mid-1970s, Josky Kiambukuta was one of the few members of the T.P. O.K. Jazz who had the freedom to record outside of the orchestra. Franco, as a general rule, did not allow his musicians to wander off and work with others. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he wanted to put an end to the coming and going of musicians.

I appears to me, by the way, that this rule was not always imposed with the same rigour. Franco must have known about his instrumentalists frequently 'moonlighting' outside the O.K. Jazz. But I guess the main reason for the rule was to impose his authority as the leader of the orchestra.

"While in the O.K. Jazz, I, Mayaula and Youlou made three songs on the side. So, not in the O.K. Jazz, but in MaMaKi. Meaning Mayaula, Mabiala, Kiambukuta. So: "MaMaKi".(...) "Ya Tamba", that was the label; he was the producer", Josky recalled in 1991.

He mentions Mayaula Mayoni, who was - as Ntesa Dalienst put it - 'associated' with the O.K. Jazz, but not a member. His association in practice meant that he composed songs for the orchestra (see this post) and on occasion played rhythm guitar.
Youlou Mabiala at the time was no longer a member of the O.K. Jazz. He had left and had already formed his own orchestra Kamikaze Loningisa. Both to Franco and to the general public he was seen (and is seen), however, as a child of the O.K. Jazz.

I realised afterwards that Josky stated they recorded only three songs as MaMaKi. I am not sure what this means. Maybe he is referring to his own compositions, because - going by the CD* - there are three songs composed by Josky. Or perhaps the other songs on these two (!) CD's were originally not released as MaMaKi, but - and I am just guessing now - as Mayaula Mayoni and his orchestra. Or maybe he meant that only three MaMaKi songs where included in the lp "L'Afrique Danse avec Ya Tamba".

This lp on the African label (African 360.110) also contains two songs by two other artists who shortly afterwards joined the T.P. O.K. Jazz (or perhaps in the case of Diatho had just joined the orchestra): Djo Mpoyi and Lukoki Diatho. I don't recognise Josky in these songs, and Josky himself doesn't remember singing in them. Both songs are also on the MaMaKi CD's, - although "Libala Bombanda" has been renamed to "Ngonda Nazwi" (but "Libala Bombanda" is the correct name).

The lp contains one 'mystery track': "Trahison Hadas". Josky confirmed that this wasn't a track by MaMaKi, and I am pretty sure it is neither by Mpoyi & Diatho. But I have not been able to trace who is performing this track.

What makes these CD's really special is the magical combination of the composing talents of Mayaula and the superb singing skills of Josky. Take for example the moment Josky enters his solo in "Pardon Cherie" (after 2'39), after a solid intro into the song in which the groove has been carefully 'constructed'. Or the spine-tingling moment when he set off (after 3'00) in - my favourite - "Silawuka".

Youlou too has his moments. Of course in "Papi" (which has featured on at least one of Youlou's own "Best of" CD's ) and "Camarade Na Ngai", which were composed by him. But also as a backing vocalist in "Pardon Cherie", "Bombanda Compliqué" and "Massivi".

It appears to me that least two of Josky's tracks were 'rough sketches' for later successes with the T.P. O.K. Jazz. The superbly jangling and counterpoint-ridden "Limbisa Ngai" was repeated in a slightly polished form on that classic lp from 1983 "Franco présente Josky Kiambukuta du T.P. O.K. Jazz" (Edipop POP 025). And "Mossese" appears to have been a rough study for perhaps one of Josky's best known hits: "Chacun Pour Soi" (also released in 1983, on CHOC 002/003).

I am still left with a lot of questions about the tracks on these CD's. Why were the three Diatho compositions included, when they clearly don't feature any of the three from MaMaKi? I am not complaining though, because "Lengema" is a song which is beautifully sung by Lukoki, backed firmly by Djo.
And who is this 'Masiva' who composed the last track "Na Regretté Tantine"? This track and "Silawuka" appear to be from the same session. Who is playing the acoustic guitar in these two wonderful songs? According to Josky the orchestra backing the MaMaKi trio consisted mainly of members of the O.K. Jazz. But who?
Why were tracks shortened ("Mama Na Bebe", "Libala Bombanda", "Massivi"), or extended ("Bombanda Compliqué"!!, "Pongi Nazwa Te")?
And I could go on, and on, and on..........

African 360.110 (Ya Tamba lp)
BOP 011 (MaMaKi CD #1)
BOP 011 (MaMaKi CD #2)

*"Going by the CD", because on the lp "L'Afrique Danse avec Ya Tamba" the track "Pongi Mazwa Te" is credited to Josky, while on the CD Mayaula is named as the composer (and the song is almost two minutes longer...).

May 01, 2010

Take off

With covers like this there is little need for a lot of words. And I am not just referring to the stewardess on the front, but also to the sleeve notes on the back. They are included in a slightly larger form than usual.
All four titles on this EP are by The Springbok Dance Band. The vinyl of this EP seems to have suffered some water damage which has left its mark clearly on the left channel. As the records were intended for mono playing I have copied the right channel to the left where the noise gets too much.

Philips 420.006 PE

The second EP has tracks by two bands: The Black Beats led by King Bruce and E.K.'s Band led by E.K. Nyame (see this earlier post). Again I refer to the sleeve notes, - although these are a bit silly, if you ask me....