April 26, 2014

Lemon or lime

A few days ago I stumbled upon the video by Karamoko Keita which you can find at the bottom of this post. Although I was looking for something else I couldn't help but watch the whole video. The thing is, this man has got certain 'je-ne-sais-quoi' which really appeals to me. I like his singing style, which is old-school Bambara (pentatonic) without being mouldy. The quality of the video is slightly below poor to hopeless, but just watching the movement, both of Karamoko himself and the chorus in the background, makes me irrationally happy.

I first heard his music during one of my first visits to Mali in the 1980s. To be honest, it was very difficult not to hear it because everybody was playing it, in the streets of Bamako and in every town and village I visited. The children were singing Karamoko's songs and their parents knew every single word of the lyrics.
They were playing this cassette, recorded for Malian radio, and here in the release of the Super Sound label of Monrovia, Liberia. You can see the first song, "Diama", in a video which I posted earlier.

This cassette just oozes old-style Malian music. And if you ask me it even oozes old-style Mali. I can't help but thinking of that friendly and hospitable people I encountered all over the country. People were curious without being nosey, warm without being pushy... They shared the little they had and demanded nothing in return. It was, in short, a country that was easy to fall in love with.
I know a lot has changed since those days, but I am sure these qualities are still there, perhaps hidden under a layer of cautiousness. A defence which may be the result of the invasion from neighbouring countries over the last decades, - or of the opening up to the modern world in general.

This is one of those cassettes with shifting favourites. All tracks are great, so it depends on moods, susceptability and environment which I prefer. When I first heard it it was "Lemourou". In hindsight I think this may have had to do with hearing this in the villages, where little girls were chanting it. I asked them what it meant and they contorted their faces. Later on someone told me it meant "citron" (lemon), but then I saw someone selling limes shouting "lemourou". My guess is it means both lemon and lime.

Super Sound SS-36

And, as mentioned above, here is another song from the same concert as the video I posted before. Karamoko with a somewhat larger ensemble and dancing, which adds an extra element of joy to his songs, if you ask me.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful indeed. Many thanks.

Wassoulou said...

I can't remember where I got this tape, either from you or another site, but it remains one of my favorites precisely because it has that strong, deeply rooted Mali sound. And you described so well similar experiences of absolute generosity I encountered in Mali as recently as 2008. I'm returning to Senegal next month for at least a year, and hope to visit friends in Yanfolila. I'll report back from that beautiful country.

Anonymous said...

Audio quality is pretty decent, and the visuals aren't really that bad. But then, I've been involved in audio restoration (and spend an inordinate amount of time discussing visual restoration with friends who restore 1910s and 1920s motion pictures), though I'm not typical. This is highly viewable, and the music's great. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I think Karamoko Keitá repertoire comes from traditional Bambara songs, which is why everyone sang it, if we add the voice of a girl (his daughter?)with him, then we can understand that songs were the perfect complement to spend the afternoon singing with the children outdoors.

@ Wassoulou, this tape was published by Awesome tapes before, in the first period, in which their tapes were riped in mono with little definition.
In this recording we can enjoy the sound of the calabash, that before we can't appreciated.
By the way if you have not yet left for africa, you could offer us some souvenir from Yanfolila, one of those you promised long ago...

roberth said...

everything on this site is amazing
thank you

Radio Africa said...

I also have two other cassettes by him - Super Sound SS 87 and Samassa 7894. Let me know if you would like them, and keep up the good work, Mr Wrldsrv.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stefan,

Sorry think it's always questions I contact you with, never answers :-)
Wondered if you had seen this post
http://edgar-miblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/les-ambassadeurs-proverbs.html The poster is talking about Salif Keita but I think as nothing shows up on Graeme Counsels discography & the sound is so obviously Haitian this must be a different Les Ambassadeurs. Or did the band have a rebirth in Haiti with new members?

regards & hope it is sunny where you are


WrldServ said...

@David: The Haitian and Malian Ambassadeurs are in no way related.
By the way, Stern's have just released a very nice 2-CD compilation of the Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, - which I can recommend (and that in itself is unusual..).

Anonymous said...

I've heard a bit from the Sterns web, and I do not think that the compilation, intake much, excepting Radio Mali track nº2, sung by Manfila Kanté? and track nº1 that does not seem Ambassadeurs.

WrldServ said...

@Ngoni: I don't understand what you are trying to say.
If you mean that the Stern's compilation does not add a lot to what has already been released, I agree. But compared to other recent releases (and given my low expectancy) the quality is good, and the production appears to have been done with some care.

As to the first Radio Mali not being an Ambassadeurs track, you may be right. And given the limited knowledge with the ORTM, I wouldn't be very surprised.

Anonymous said...

I think you understand perfectly what I meant.
I do not like compilations, because each album is a work created in a moment, compilations stir the temporal order of the songs.
On the other hand if I'm not going to hear something new, or have more information that makes me appreciate something previously not perceived, I do not think then a great contribution.

Also I think they have not had the participation of any one of the creators, that those two new songs, would be narrated.
Then at least the technician who was in charge of production, deserves our thanks for his sensitivity.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Stefan just been playing the LP you posted most of whose tracks are included on the comp so will be checking it out for more good stuff.