Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Belated Farewell to Seydou Zombra

In 1987 French producer Jean Philippe Rykiel produced Soro, an album by the legendary Malian vocalist Salif Keita that was acclaimed as a World Music™ classic. Sorry, but I just hated it. I'm not saying that African musicians aren't allowed to take advantage of the latest in studio technology to appeal to an international audience, but something about that particular effort just left me cold. Keita's beautiful voice was swamped in instrumentation and rococo flourishes. What a waste!

Today's offering is Synimory (EMI E0199912-4), a 1991 cassette by Burkinabé singer Seydou Zombra. Synimory was also produced by Rykiel. On Youtube you can find a number of previous recordings by Zombra, and you know what? I like this one the most. Here the production elevates rather than overwhelms Zombra's rather impressive vocal chops.

The music of Burkina Faso is not well-known outside that country. Musicians from Burkina, like Amadou Balaké, often migrate to other countries, like Ivory Coast, to record and make a decent living. In Zombra's case it was apparently his parents who moved to Abidjan, where he was born in 1956. He is said to have been a talented footballer in his youth before becoming a sports announcer for Radio France International's program, "Les Dieux du Stade," and producing numerous other programs for the station. His first LP, Gnoumbono (Capriccio 37077), was released in 1979.

After a long illness, Zombra passed away in Paris on July 16 of last year. He is missed by sports fans and music aficionados alike. Adieu!
Seydou Zombra - Synimory

Seydou Zombra - Yeleen

Seydou Zombra - Fangan (Instrumental)

Seydou Zombra - Denwolo

Seydou Zombra - Fangan

Seydou Zombra - Synimory (Instrumental)

Download Synimory as a zipped file here.


Rico Le Schwartz said...

Jean-Philippe Rykiel is not only a producer but a keyboard player. Son of the fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, he is blind. He is very appreciated among the african musicians community. Living in Paris, I'm lucky to have the opportunity to attend african musicians live concerts. Rykiel is very often present and invited on stage to play with the artists.

Matthew Lavoie said...

Thanks for this post John. I have never heard this cassette, or of Seydou Zombra for that matter. Funny you feature Jean-Phillipe. I was listening to a cassette that he arranged and played on this weekend and was thinking about doing a post featuring him. He is probably the most connected musician in all of Francophone Africa and has an extraordinary discography. He is also a wickedly talented musician. I agree with you about Soro. I didn't enjoy it much at the time of its release. A few months back i returned to it, trying to give it another shot. I still don't enjoy it.

Tim Harrison said...

I really liked this post, thanks. I also agree with you 100% about the early ventures of West African superstars into the shiny studios of Paris. They removed the heart and soul from their music, however unwittingly, maybe also because the westernised producers failed to see their previous music from both an evolving African and a mature European perspective. Some artists (Youssou N'dour for example) never recovered and drifted into overproduced jazz-funk drivel, whilst some (Baaba Maal, for example) learned, adapted, evolved and improved.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with, John, about French studio over-production applied to excellent African artists, and Soro in particular. It became a de facto standard for many years with emigrees, as you know. Synimory's one of the best I've heard for building on an enlarged vocal and orchestral base, rather than imposing it to material where it doesn't fit. Thanks for sharing it!