October 15, 2015


'Tempus fugit', often translated as 'time flies', actually means 'time escapes'. This is how I experience the passing of time; it rushes on and I am running after it trying to catch up.
In this post I would like to share with you a video, which I recorded in 2011 and which I have been meaning to post on this blog ever since. But time has been escaping me, and we are now in 2015.

The recording was made in October 2011, in a bar called Le Tempo in central Bamako. And the name seems very fitting for the music which was performed by a group of clearly seasoned musicians. For walking into the bar was like walking into a time machine, and being transported to the early 1970s.
And perhaps even to a different place. For this music reminded me of legendary artists like Dexter Johnson, Laba Sosseh, Idy Diop, Papa and Mar Seck. Music with a strong Latin or Cuban flavour, hot and languid. Languid in a positive sense: with the ease that comes from an inherited understanding, and not from fanatic practice.

Unfortunately the sound is slighty distorted, but it should give you an idea of the almost unreal quality of this orchestra. The flute player would fit in easily with any top Cuban orchestra. Unfortunately I did not have time to go back and find out who he is, but this man is topnotch. The vocals in these two cleverly linked songs are superb. The harmonies in "Que Humanidad" (the first if the two) are in my opinion better than in Johnny Pacheco's original from the mid-1960s, particularly for the despondent tone. The second song, "Oriente", does not surpass the original, but this is not surprising as the original is by the immortal Cheo Marquetti* when he was singing with Chappottin y sus Estrellas, at a time when they were - rightly - at the top of their fame. But the Tempo band still manages to give the song its own feeling.

Out of character and emphasising that I am not going to be making a habit of this, I would like to add that if you like this 'genre' I can recommend the releases by Terangabeat, noteably those of Idrissa (Idy) Diop, Mar Seck and Dexter Johnson, despite the fact that I get the impression that in 'restoring' the original they may have in some cases overshot the mark.

Returning to the music of Mali: a lot has been written about the Latin influence into the music of the Malian orchestras. While I am inclined to believe that this influence is being overstated, it does not mean there was no influence. Apart from a few musicians who went to, visited or even studied in Cuba (such as Boncana Maiga, who can been seen nowadays presenting a rather unfortunate weekly magazine on modern African music on the French TV5), Mali also went through a Latin 'wave', - as did most countries in Africa, Europe and the Americas**. Often records from the GV-series on the HMV-label (from the 1950s) are cited as a major influence on West African music, but I have my doubts about this. This series contained mainly Cuban son music, and little of this music remains in the West African music of either the 1950s or 1960s. I suspect Mali went along with the worldwide craze in the 1960s.

I had heard from several musicians that there had been orchestras in the era of Modibo Keita which combined Latin with Malian, and even French music. But for decades this music seemed to have been lost in the mist of time (as is the case with far too much music in the African continent). But fortunately Florent Mazzoleni managed to dig up this cassette, which I would like to share with you here. The cassette contains no information apart from the title of the orchestra: Askia Jazz.

This orchestra was reputedly founded in 1960, in the wake of Mali's independence, by pupils of the Lycée Askia Modibo in Bamako. Several musicians claim to have started in this orchestra, but one member who has been confirmed by several sources is the legendary sax player Harouna Barry. I am not quite sure which instrument Harouna Barry played with Askia Jazz, but reports suggest it was not the saxophone, as he only took up playing this instruments years later. He only stayed with Askia Jazz for a few years before moving to Gao, where he worked as teacher. In the mid-1970s he joined Boncana Maiga in Les Maravillas. And ten years later, in the mid-1980s, he was the leader of the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali before becoming the chef d'orchestre of National Badèma. He remained in this position until his retirement in 2001. Harouna Barry passed away in January 2008.

Other members included Mohamed Cheick Tabouré, who - according to this article - stated that the creation of Askia Jazz was made possible by using the money from the deposits which student had to pay when they joined the Lycée. This money was used to buy instruments in Abidjan. The example of the Lycée Askia Modibo was soon followed by other schools in Bamako.
Tabouré, by the way, is in the news in Mali with some regularity as a leading member and spokesperson of le Mouvement Populaire du 22 mars, which was created to support the plotters of the coup d'état of March 2012.

As per usual I am open to any suggestions with regard to the titles of the 16 songs of this cassette. I have added my suggestions, - but they are just that: suggestions.

Askia Jazz du Lycée Askia Modibo

Many thanks to Florent Mazzoleni for filling in this bit of musical history from Mali!

* but what is surprising is the fact that Marquetti, born in the Occidente of Cuba (Alquízar), should be so melancholic about the Oriente.
** even in the Netherlands we had a spell a Latin madness. I particularly remember this frisky chachacha from my youth.

June 13, 2015


Another song that has been haunting me for the last few weeks months. I have lost track of where and when and from whom I have copied this video, but it seems to me that it must have been a private recording. This has some negatives, notably the flaws in the sound (after 3'48), but in all the positives have the upperhand.
This song, "Kabambare" composed by singer Papy Tex and performed by him with Pépé Kallé and Empire Bakuba was released in 1985 on the album of the same title. But to be honest the album version can only be described as 'anemic' in comparison to the superb full-blooded version in this video. And this is mainly due to the technical imperfection of this recording, and in particular the balance between vocals and supporting instruments.

I add that in general I am not a fan of Empire Bakuba, let alone an expert on the group. But this video is official and irrefutable proof of the vocal talents of Papy Tex, Dilu Dilumona and Pépé Kallé, both as individual vocalists and as a harmonic trio.
It explains too why Franco was desperate to have a Pépé Kallé voice in his orchestra (see this post)...

EDIT September 12, 2015: I have mixed up the two songs of this video. The song you find above is "La Terre Sainte", and the one I have added below is "Kabambare". This song too demonstrates the vocal talent of the singers of Empire Bakuba, and adds to my point that these live versions are more interesting than the studio version.
"La Terre Sainte" (the holy land) is composed by a certain Dadou; and this is probably not the Dadou of the songs with this title.

June 12, 2015


I have been struggling to compile traditional songs from the DR Congo for a podcast. The struggling was certainly not a result of the lack of choice, but entirely the result of my obsession with this cassette.
I got stuck on this cassette, and just couldn't get any further.

The recordings on this cassette are generally labelled as 'traditional music', and I am sure there must be some form of passing on from one generation to the next involved. Unfortunately the label 'traditional' suggests, at least to a large section of western audiences, cultures on the brink of extinction, archaeological finds, ethnomusicologists travelling to remote regions to record octogenerians, staged performances of natives in costumes which even their grandparents would be too embarrassed to wear. These recordings are indeed made by an ethnomusicologist, and it seems more than likely that quite a bit of travelling had to be done to get to the location where the recording took place. But "staged performance": I don't think so. And the performers are perhaps nów in their eighties, but they weren't at the time of the recordings in the mid-1970s.

The recordings radiate the confidence and general optimism which is typical of a lot of - if not all - Congolese music of that era. This is particularly the case with the songs in these recording which are performed by women and girls. The casual boldness of the singing, the natural and unforced interaction between the individual women, who manage to combine chaos with harmony, is simply spellbinding.

Take the third song on side A. Every participant is free to add her own individual melodic line to the collective. The effect is both kaleidoscopic and harmonic. I would have loved to be there when the recording took place!

Magic can be found in all tracks of this cassette; there are simply no weaker songs. Besides the songs sung by women, either accompanying themselves or accompanied by an issanji or sanza ensemble, there are songs sung by men. These are, fortunately, in the same vein, with the same tendency towards controlled anarchy in the chorus. The last two songs are different from the others in that these are examples of the evolution towards modern instruments, - in this case a acoustic guitar and a bottle... The result is mesmerising and nimble, delicate and confusing.

I am sure you have recognised the musical style as the one that was modernised and commercialised by Tshala Muana. Personally I find that she took the evolution a step too far and has lost the magic of the original, which can still be heard on this cassette. I can only pray that some of the essence of this brilliant music has survived, somewhere in the immenseness of the border regions between Congo and Angola.

LLCT 7313

May 11, 2015


Apologies for the image quality of these three videos. But certainly not for the music. The videos have in common, besides the fact that they all feature great artists from Mali, that they are all too good not to share.
The drive, the passion and the unadulterated fun of the Ambassadeurs, the refined dancing combined with the brilliant vocals by Alou Fané and Flani Sangaré plus the unique talent of Zani Diabaté, the soul-piercing singing by Mah Damba backed by her late husband Mamaye Kouyaté: they are hard to surpass.

More soon...

February 21, 2015


The record I would like to share with you in this post has been in my possession for quite a few decades. I can't even remember where and when I bought it. But listening to it again, years later, all of a sudden the penny dropped.
This happens occasionally, and it usually leaves me wondering why the penny was stuck in the first place. Maybe it has to do with maturity and the patience (never one of my key features..) that is said to come with it. Or maybe it has to do with the relative quality of the recording: the bigger the pile of disappointing (or downright crap) new releases, the better the chances for the former 'mediocre' recordings. In this case I suspect it may have to do with never getting beyond the first track, combined with my generic impatience.

A big mistake, I admit it.
For this is a special lp. The artists are probably from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and have - as far as I am aware - never gained any renown outside of their region. The Kwana-Moto Band is led by Alport Astazio, and the latter is also responsible as composer or arranger for the twelve songs on this album. The principal instrument of the group is - as the cover suggests - the marimba. The marimba skills of the group are particularly evident from the tracks "Odoli"(b2) and "Gweru" (b4), if you ask me.

The two final tracks of each side demonstrate that the repertoire of the group is somewhat wider. Both songs are of the kind that take some getting used to. "Intandane (Orphans)", clearly a sad theme, starts off with an acoustic guitar, a flute and a female singer, but when a man has repeated the lines of the woman a mbira joins in and the songs changes in character. Strangely it fades out when one would expect a lot more... The second non-marimba song, "Urombo (Poverty)", is a more typical instrumental mbira tune.

The songs which make this album really special are the songs with lyrics. These lyrics are mainly spoken and not sung, or perhaps I should say they are mumbled. Because they are drowned out by the instruments. In "Kwira Mungoro [Get Into The Cart]" the argument between the woman and the man is still audible, and in "Ranchera" the instruments quieten to allow the singing to be heard, but in "Lobengula" (my favourite song of the album) all that remains are the mutterings of a man about his experiences in the big city.

Please listen to the album a few times, it may grow on you.

Inter Africa Records 1ALP9

February 08, 2015

Moriba Kaba

In 1988 he was not one to push himself to the forefront. He hadn't been part of the European tours of the years before, so he was 'outside'.
Guitarist Mama Sissoko had moved himself in the limelight during the concerts in Holland, and - according to some - was rivalling for the position of leader of the orchestra, after the retirement of Amadou 'Armstrong' Bah. But sax player (and hunter) Mamadou Diarra better known as 'Blick' had filled that position, a logical choice given the historic focus on the horn section.
I had met with Toussaint Siané a few months before, and had been spotted by Amadou Bah when he was touring in Ségou on his Yamaha motorcycle while I was trying to get some money out of the bank.

Singer Papa Gaoussou Diarra I didn't meet until I saw Super Biton play at the Hotel GTM on November 19, 1988.

Both public and bandmembers addressed him as Papus, at the the time. Later on, after he had made three solo albums (one of these is posted here), he acquired the surname of "Pèkèlè", after one of his hit songs. But to me he will always be linked to the concert at the Hotel GTM.

A few days ago I received news that he has died on January 25, at the age of just 56.

By way of a tribute to Papus I would like to share with you the song that earned him a place in my list of best musical moments ever.
This song was the opening song of the concert at the Hotel GTM in Ségou. Technicians of Malian television were still installing their equipment to record a few songs, which were to be part of a celebratory emission for the (then) president Moussa Traoré. On guitar is, of course, Mama Sissoko, and the vocal in this Malinké classic is by Papa Gaoussou Diarra.

Moriba Kaba (flac)

Additionally here is a video of a song featuring Papa Diarra, recorded at the Institut Français in Bamako in October 2011. The sound is slightly overmodulated (sorry).

January 07, 2015

Je veux danser

Another new year. Of course I wish all of you a very good 2015, with only good things.

To get this year off to splendid start I would like to share with you this wonderful cassette with sixteen songs from the late 1950s/early 1960s Congo. You may remember those five cassettes of classic South African songs I posted some time ago (here, here and here). This cassette is from the same source, and - judging by the artwork - released by the same people.

This has been a truely eye-opening cassette for me. After hearing it for the first time, some thirty years ago, I knew I want more. That has proven to be quite a bit of a task...
Of the sixteen tracks on the cassette six were recorded for the Loningisa label. The other ten were originally released on the Esengo label. And while to me it was more than obvious that this was music of an exceptional quality, the likes of which will be hard to find on this entire planet, I was disappointed to find that the music of these Congolese labels is extremely hard to find.
And that is true to this day.
Especially the tracks from the extensive Esengo catalogue remain obscure and very hard to find. Luckily some have survived through Pathé re-releases (particularly songs by African Jazz and Rock-a-Mambo), and recently some have popped up on the two (recommended) releases on Planet Ilunga. But the bulk of the releases on this label remains hidden, and is perhaps even lost (aaarghh!!).

Of the ten Esengo tracks three are by De Wayon (or Dewayon) and his Conga Jazz, four are by the Negro Band (from Brazzaville), one is by orchestre Bantou (still without an "s" at the end), and two are by Rochereau with African Rock. African Rock is one of the many combinations of musicians from Rock-a-Mambo and African Jazz. To be honest I find the two Rochereau compositions the least interesting on this cassette, despite the contribution by Jean-Serge Essous. But that may be due to the level of competition.

The one who does stand out is De Wayon, with three absolute scorchers. I love the joy and playfulness of "Josephine", the cheeky staccato in "E Champrau" (and the little cries just kill me) and boyish singing and almost subversive interplay between the guitars in "Merengue Conga Jazz". Lovely naughty music!
Competing on equal terms is the Negro Band. "Bambanda Bayini Negro", composed by guitarist Baguin, with its almost absurd guitars, "Bolingo Rosalie" with the subtly off-key harmonies (by composer Demon Kasanaut and?) which oddly only add to its attraction and the apparent insanity of "Paresse Bobo", another staccato cha-cha-cha. Again contributions from other musicians at Esengo appeared to be more of a rule than an exception, although it is not always clear who is who in these recordings. The fourth Negro Band track ("Los Amor Mary-Clary"), for example, is credited in the Esengo catalogue to Nezy with the Negro Succes. While Vicky Longomba's Negro Succes were recording for Esengo at the time, it seems very unlikely that a singer who spent a large part, if not all his career, with the Negro Band would contribute a composition to another, rivalling orchestra.

Of the six Loningisa tracks four are by the O.K. Jazz, and the other two are credited on the cassette sleeve to the O.K. Jazz. The tracks which áre by the O.K. Jazz are by Vicky ("Nakolela Mama Azonga", a rumba also featured on Sonodisc CD 36502 and African 360.144), by Franco (the iconic bolero "Maladi Ya Bolingo") and by Daniel Lubelo, better known as De la Lune.
Especially the two tracks composed by De la Lune are ver special. The first, "Ozali Se Wa Ngai", is a wonderfully languid song which is just made for warm summer evening and romantic dancing. The second, "Ntsay Ya Bala Ba O.K.", a song which clearly borrows from traditional rhythms, was performed by the O.K. Jazz 'till well in the 1980s, as a warm-up song and to remind the public of the long line of classics the orchestra had and has produced.
The two remaining songs are incorrectly credited on the sleeve to "Tuka Floriant w. O.K. Jazz", and so far I have not been able to trace the origin of this mistake. I mean, who would invent a name like "Tuka Floriant"? It is however a name that has not been recognised by any of the (O.K. Jazz and other) musicians I have talked to. What's more, in the Loningisa catalogue the songs are credited to Tchade Mpiana. And to clinch it: the O.K. Jazz had left Loningisa in August 1961 and the two tracks were recorded in January 1962. Tchade was a singer with the Beguen Band, the band who rose to glory with the Ngoma label, but were contracted by Papadimitriou to fill the void left by the O.K. Jazz. My guess is the song "Bisengo Ya Bana Ya Loningisa" is either intended to claim the position of Loningisa's number one band, or to flatter the people at or owners of Loningisa. The Beguen Band have recorded quite a few songs at Loningisa, but these are all in the category "extremely-rare-and-very-hard-to-find". But please prove me wrong!
The two Beguen Band songs are in my humble opinion the whipped cream on the birthday cake, the brandy on the christmas pudding or (the bit of) chilly in the perfect curry dish. Modest in their conception, they shine and have remain firm classics in my household for multiple decades now.

"Je veux danser"... toute l'année!!

Music of Zaire 1 - Catalina (cassette)

December 28, 2014

My joy is so great...

I have never been a great believer. When it comes to belief I have always been on the side of caution. It may have been my catholic upbringing and the deeprooted hypocrisy that comes with this religion that has led to a profound mistrust of firm believers. I would even go as far as to state that I am convinced there should always be room for doubt.

I won't come as a surprise that my attitude towards religion is somewhere between serious suspicion and extreme wariness. And certainly I draw the line at religious groups claiming to be superior or better than others, and firmly oppose any sects, extremists or religious nuts claiming to belong to the "only acceptable religion". I mean, if you are going to be religiously inclined that's fine, but don't bully others into involuntary partaking in your convictions.

In my opinion too much is made of the differences between religions. The fundamental difference between christianity and islam, of example, may be the belief in the human god, but apart from this the similarities far outweigh the differences. The emphasis on differences usually has its roots in culture and politics, or in the interpretation of the principles of the specific belief. The scope of interpretation within one religion is usually greater than the root difference between 'rivalling' religions. Strict interpretations and a strict imposing of one interpretation have over the centuries only resulted in greater variety. New varieties have had to accentuate their differences in order to survive, thus creating rivalry, hardline interpretation, oppression and finally new religions...
And I don't mean I am immune to the reasons that lay at the basis for belief and religion: fear of the unknown, lack of control of one's destiny and fate, uncertainty, insecurity and the sense of insignificance within the enormity of all.

A country that has been at the forefront of the rivalry between religions for quite a while now is Nigeria. As far as I know (and I realise I am very much limited by the minimal coverage of Nigerian affairs in western media!) this has only led to a violent struggle in the last few years. In music we have come to know both strong believers of the Christian faith, like juju-stars King Sunny Ade and (the reformed) Chief Ebenezer Obey, and devout Muslims, such as that hero of apala music Alhadji Haruna Ishola.

In this post I would like to share with you exponents of both Christianity and Islam. And in both cases with an explicit focus on their respective religion.
Islam is represented by an album by the Muslim Carol Singers, led by brother Latifu Fagbayi Oloto. I bought this record in the mid-1980s at Stern's, and I gather they were glad to get rid of it, as there was an overcrowding of similar albums in their shelves. It has been an album that has raised eyebrows, evoked some curiosity, but one that has not been copied a lot.
The music is in a style that at times borrows from fuji and at times from apala. While I like the choruses, I am not too impressed by brother Latifu's contribution. The best track, if you ask me, is the title track (B1). In apala style, but not in the same league as the great Alhadji Haruna Ishola. The music never gets off the ground, never really flows.

Leader LRCLS 52

Representing Christian faith is a group with some mystery attached to it. The CD is credited to the Brotherhood Youth Fellowship Choir, but the publisher leaves some doubt if this is indeed the gospel choir which can be heard in these 21 songs. The songs are copied from cassettes bought in 2000, but probably recorded in the 1970s.
This is a capella music in the strictest sense of the word, so no instruments and as in a church (i.e. "a capella"). The titles are largely unknown or have been added by the publisher.

I can only agree with the producers of this CD that this is music worth preserving. The chorusses are simply wonderful, if not heavenly. I just love the harmonies in these songs and the great variation in combining the very individual voices. There is a lot to be discovered, even after repeated listening. While the joy of these great singers oozes out of music, this is a compilation that rises above the religious content or the religiousness of its lyrics.
"Music from heaven"? If there is such a place I wouldn't mind hearing this music there!

Sound Museum SOMU 5

PS: I hope you have noticed there is an extra festive soundstream at the bottom of the blog page....

December 24, 2014

Rise of the machine

The other day I was reading about the potential threat of robots. Apparently even respected scientists like Stephen Hawking are warning against the rise of the machine. Here in the Netherlands there seem
to be opposing points of view, albeit by the same persons. Our present Dutch government, for example, sees technology as the main driving force behind the economy, while at the same warning against loss of jobs as a result of increased automation and computerisation. In the meantime millions (and more) are lost on computerisation projects failing.
I can imaging how this would lead to economic gain, in the same way that bombs and ammunition are a economically very profitable venture, - from the purely capitalistic point of view of the manufacturer at least (boom!! - and it's gone).

In my experience automation projects have a strong tendency to fail for one reason: the human factor. On the one hand suppliers of the automated solution are inclined to impose their wonderful 'technical advancements' on the future users, while on the other hand users are simply unable to visualise the end-result. Unfortunately this often leaves the suppliers to do whatever they want or see as "the best solution for the customer". The idea that the final product requires an intricate knowledge of technology does not occur to the supplier, while the user doesn't want to be caught out as a digital dunce. The balance between supplier and user is disturbed even further by present-day managers, for whom staff is mostly seen as a negative influence on profits and automation as the best way to correct this.

In music we have seen a similar move towards automation. The extreme exponents of this musical rise of the machine are the Tiësto's, Armin van Buurens and Afrojacks* of today. Skilled artists have been replaced by a single person mixing their music using machines.
The rise of the machine in music started way before the rise of computers. The relative innocent Solovox organ, introduced into African music in the mid-1950s, at least added a new sound. The same can be said for the organs used in the 1970s and 1980s. Generally they were used as an adornment and not as a replacement for other instruments and their players. That is: not until this was demanded by western producers.
Several musicians I talked to in the 1980s told me that there was always a limit to the number of persons they could take on a tour. So at a time when many musicians travelled outside Africa for the first time and became known to a western public, they often performed with reduced formations. This became more of an issue in the second half of the 1980s. Groups were more than often 'completed' by local artists or musicians; at first by countrymen of the imported performers, but later on by (at best) native professionals or (even) native amateurs.
This trend coincided with cuts on another level: the often impressive horn sections were replaced completely - you guessed - by machines.
One may argue that we were lucky to see artists in the first place. But let me refute this with this question: how would you feel if the horn section in a concerto by Mozart was replaced by a synthesizer?

Personally I have objected to the replacement of those lucious horn sections by the constipated sound of synthesizers since the late-1970s. And we were lucky to see the O.K. Jazz when they were still "Tout Puissant", to see Fela's Egypt '80 blowing us straight to heaven and back, to hear the suave harmonies of the horns of Super Biton, Les Ambassadeurs, Bembeya Jazz and all those orchestras that would be and are left amputated without the horns.
And the worst is: there is plenty of evidence that it must have been even better before! Listen to those marvels by the likes of E.T. Mensah, the Black Beats, Victor Olaiya, Balladins, Tambourinis... Listen to the uncontroled lunacy (but one that never stops bringing a huge grin to my face) of that trumpet player with Mbaraka Mwinshehe, to those blaring horns of Etoile de Dakar, to immortals like Dexter Johnson...
And I could go on.
I don't even want to start about the horn sections in other parts of the world. The two minutes of the horn section in this video just bring tears to my eyes.....

I am sure you are wondering where this is leading to. Perhaps you expect me to post the best horn sections in African music ever, much in the vein of the top 100 (or top 10, 2000 or any other number) lists that are prevalent at this time of the year**. If so, you are going to be disappointed.
For it is actually the machine I would like to focus on. The single man and his machine.

The decline of the one can precipitate the rise of the other. For as the large orchestras became too complicated to bring over, too expensive to maintain on tour, and subsequently - when horns were replaced by synths - too unlike their former selves, the appeal of the lone artist grew. Initially more for the tour organisers, who saw the single musician as less of a financial risk. And gradually also for the public, often with the aid of clever marketing. When the artist was actually supported by or part of a band or group, like for example Oumou Sangaré, Salif Keita, (perhaps to a lesser extent) Zani Diabaté or you name it, the name presented to the public would still be that of the artist, making the musicians supporting the artist interchangeable (and therefore less of an economic liability). This setup, although certainly beneficial for the 'stars' involved, at times led to frustration with the more conscientious artists. I remember Ali Farka Touré (an artist with a strong feeling of cultural inheritance) expressing his annoyance about not being able to bring a larger ensemble on tour. Having seen larger (and even large) ensembles in Mali I understand his frustration.

One group of musicians also benefited from this individualisation: the ones that already - and traditionally - were able to perform alone. For there was already a group of 'men with their machine'. Kora players like the great Batourou Sekou Kouyaté already were self-employed entrepreneurs, while at the same time being involved in large, medium-sized or petits ensembles. This flexibility came from their machine: the kora.

To accentuate the machine-like quality of the instrument I am not sharing a recording of the aforementioned Batourou Sekou, but one by the man who more than any other kora player managed to bring out the metal sound in the kora (and in his singing too, as you can hear in the album I posted before): Lalo Keba Dramé.

This album, released on the N'Dardisc label, has Dramé's versions of some of the Mandinka classics covered by many of his colleagues. Typically his versions are less laid-back, more energetic, if not at times even frantic. I haven't heard any recordings of Lalo Keba Dramé accompanying a female griot, and given the imposing style of his kora playing I can understand why.
This is a very individual album, in a very individual style.

N'Dardisc 33-13

As a special festive bonus I am adding this great video by Malian kora legend Sidiki Diabaté and his son Toumani. The son has become more famous than his father, particularly outside of Mali, but if you ask me not for the right reasons. Personally I am not a great fan of the cross-over, and least of all of kora players 'battling it out' with fading western instrumentalists in an attempt to enter into 'arty', commercially lucrative new-age circles. I do like his more modest, less pretentious work, both as a solo performer and with ensembles. But his father is of a different league and of a very different era in Malian music. An era in which the competition was fierce, and in which the influence of tradition was predominant.
As far as I can gather Sidiki is explaining - to host and presenter Zoumana Yoro Traoré and to the Malian public - the origin of his machine. A truely historic document.
Unfortunately I don't have the whole video, and it breaks off after 17'30.

* and the fact that I only know these Dutch dj's is only because they are presented in shows on Dutch TV as Dutch celebrities.
** I have no intention at all of ever contributing to this sort of madness. And not just because it is almost impossible to compare artists, performances and recordings, but also because my preferences vary immensely with my mood, with my environment, the time of day, the weather, the season, - and I could go on...

December 13, 2014

Sullen charm

I am hoping to share more memorable music with you before the end of this year. A year which has gone by too fast, and with too little focus on the good things in life. There is so much to catch up...

You may remember that lovely cassette by Malian singer Molobaly Traoré which I posted some five years ago. If you've missed it, please do yourself a favour and go back and listen to it. Listening to it again the other day I was immediately taken back to the dusty streets of Mali and particularly those of the Ségou region. Real music can do that.

That cassette is from the early days of Molobaly's career. A career that ended far too early, with her death in 2009.
The cassette I would like to share with you in this post is from a few years later. It is clear that some of the innocence which marked her earlier cassette - and which certainly added to its charm - has gone. But other elements have remained: the slight tendency towards sullenness, the faint air of gloom, the strong Bambara repertoire, - now even more accentuated by the use of the sokou (violin). There are no credits on the cassettes, but my guess is that it may well be Zoumana Tereta.

You may recognise the second track, "Laban Kasi". This is a version of a song from Ségou, also performed by 'Tasidoni' Karamoko Keita. "Diandjo", however, is not a version of the song with the same title by Hawa Dramé, although the subject of the song may be the same.

The title of the song "Dely Magnin" confuses me. I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that "dely" is "to pray". But a title "praying is wrong" seems somehow unlikely in a country like Mali. So perhaps it can also mean something else...

If you ask me this is a cassette has not lost its power over the last twenty-two years. In fact, in my personal ratings it has only grown in stature, - as Molobaly Traoré has grown with it. More of this late but great artist in a future post.

IK 010