Monday, July 9, 2018
Friday, April 20, 2018
Augustin Kouassi is an Ivorian musician who's apparently been around the block a few times. Discogs lists a couple of LPs by his band, Les Messagers de la Paix, apparently from the '80s. Other than that, I can't say much more about him and the group. How many times have I had to say that here?
I got today's offering by them way back when it first came out, along with a raft of other cassettes from Ivory Coast, and didn't pay much attention to it then. Man, was I missing out! Mambo Attoh Théophane (Carine Musique CAR 01, 1993) is one of the most addictive recordings I've heard in a long time. Everything about it is first-rate, from Gaiten Kouao's exquiste guitar work to the outstanding vocals (different members take turns singing lead, and the chorus is tight). Of course, Congo music is an influence, and the vocals have that sweet-and-sour quality you hear in West African music from Ghana to the Niger Delta. I'm tempted to label it "Soukous-Highlife," but that just doesn't do it justice. Let the music speak for itself!
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Mambo Attoh Théophane
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Kêgbè Piemin
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Yié Koubê
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Boto Sopie
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - Adja Ayo
Augustin Kouassi & Les Messagers - N'Douci Carrefour
Download Mambo Attoh Théophane as a zipped file here.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
The musical roots of zouglou lie in the local Ivorian musical styles tohourou and aloucou from western Côte d’Ivoire, which became popular in the urban centres in the 1960s and 70s. The direct musical base of zouglou music grew out of what is known as ambiance facile or woyo: chants to percussive music on improvised instruments such as metal scrapers, glass bottles and of course drums. This music grew out of the songs that accompanied sports competitions in Côte d‘Ivoire‘s schools during the 1980s. Groups of students that called themselves “supporters committees” would accompany sports teams to the games and make up songs to encourage their teams. As school teams and their supporters committees travelled to matches against other schools across the country, they picked up new melodies and rhythms along the way.The musical group Zougloumania, founded by the duo Poignon and Bouabré in 1990, was the biggest of the "First Generation" of zouglou groups. Its first and apparently only release, Zomammanzo (EMI E028991-4, 1991), hit the scene like a bombshell, becoming the greatest hit of the zouglou era, exceeded only by Magic System's "Premier Gaou," released in 1999. Listening to it, it's not hard to understand why - every track on Zomamanzo is a scorcher!
Ambiance facile and woyo music sessions also became a popular past-time in Abidjan’s working class (popular) neighborhoods. In these multi-ethnic neighborhoods, children and teenagers would teach each other songs from their home regions. This mostly unrecorded leisure music is still popular across Côte d’Ivoire. Through the sports matches and neighborhood sessions, ambiance facile drew on rhythms and melodies from many different regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Zouglou music also drew on these rhythms and melodies and thus became the first musical style that was considered to be multi-ethnic and nationally representative of Côte d’Ivoire.
In 1990, zouglou was invented first as a dance among university students residing in the Yopougon student accommodation at the University of Cocody in Abidjan, now known as Felix Houphouet-Boigny University. This dance consisted of throwing one’s arms in the air with angular movements, mimicking an imploration to God to help the university students that were suffering under the budgetary cuts in the education sector (fewer scholarships, inadequate student housing, catering and transport, etc.)...
After this auspicious debut, Poignon and Bouabré went ther seaparate ways, bringing an end to Zougloumania. Bouabré moved to France and Poignon remained in Abidjan, becoming a solo artist as well as performing with Les Doyas, a trio composed of Poignon, Alan Bill and Yodé Côcô. He has lately been afflicted with facial paralysis and is in need of proper medical care. Let's hope he recovers soon!
Zougloumania - Zomamanzo
Zougloumania - Elle a Bu Degue
Zougloumania - Djaba
Zougloumania - Zito
Zougloumania - Ah Ma Soeur
Zougloumania - Tchicala
Zougloumania - Kapa
Zougloumania - Zomamanzo (Instrumental)
Thursday, February 8, 2018
N'Gosséré Ballo - Wika Ô Ma
Monday, January 29, 2018
As is often the case, I've been unable to find out much about Mr. Romy or his group. At some point Les Wassiato evolved into Super Wassiato and Claude Romy was joined by Blé Marius as co-leader of the band. Mr. Marius doen't seem to be involved in this earlier incarnation of the group. Le Wassiato are members of the Wé ethnic group, who also live in Liberia, where they are known as the Krahn.
Claude Romy & le Wassiato - Sagnonweti
Claude Romy & le Wassiato - Zolepahi
Claude Romy & le Wassiato - Deblehi
Download Zol' Paye as a zipped file here. More great Ivorian music from the '90s is on the way!
Thursday, January 25, 2018
A track from Ivory Coast's Gueatan System was featured on the 1993 release Super Guitar Soukous (Hemisphere 7243 8 28188), a compilation devoted mainly to Congolese musicians. Their music is not really soukous, although there are definite influences in the guitar work, as in the music of other African countries. The group members are from the Dan, or Yacouba, ethnic group, who live in the western part of Ivory Coast, spilling over into Liberia. The Dan are world-renowned for their carved wooden masks and other artwork.
Other than that, I can't say anything else about Gueatan System other than that this cassette, Ze (EMI E0183492-4, 1992), is spectacular. Enjoy!
Gueatan System - Ze
Gueatan System - Dion
Gueatan System - Abiba
Gueatan System - Zolo
Gueatan System - Guelo
Gueatan System - Zemele
Download Ze as a zipped file here.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Here's a quick post to celebrate the New Year and fulfill a promise. A while back I posted La Tradition en Mouvement by the Ivorian funk/zouk group Woya and pledged I would also make available their first and biggest hit, Kacou Ananzé (African 425.004, 1986). Well, here it is!
I remember not caring for this LP a whole lot when it first came out. Something about synths and especially drum machines just put me off. After listening to it for the first time in at least twenty years I must amend that judgement. Kacou Ananzé is catchy, danceable and captures perfectly the Zouk sound, then sweeping out of the French Antilles and across Africa and the world. It was a deserved best-seller for Woya.
I wasn't able to find out much about the album online, but I did discover tha "Kacou Ananzé" is an illustrious figure in West African folklore, an egotistical spider who is contually led to misfortune by his own hubris and vanity. As "Anansi the Spider" these stories have made their way to the Caribbean and to the United States as "Bre'r Rabbit."
Enjoy Kacou Ananzé, and Bonne Année!
Woya - Kacou Ananzé
Woya - Chèque Sans Provision
Woya - Belinda
Woya - Marguerita
Woya - Oh! Loubard
Woya - Ambiance Facile
Download Kacou Ananzé as a zipped file here.
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Les Côcôs were one of the innumerable groups that popped up during the first wave of Zouglou in the Ivory Coast during the economic crisis of the early '90s. I wrote about the genre in an earlier post here. Through the travails of recent years, notably two civil wars, Zouglou has remained popular, according to this very informative article:
"...Through its emphasis on social and political criticism, zouglou developed into a form of Ivorian counter-culture. Zouglou musicians represent the perspective of marginalized youth and social underdogs and have been very critical of the devastating behavior of the wealthy and politically powerful in Côte d’Ivoire. Zouglou artists see their role as speaking truth to power, because, according to a famous nouchi (Ivorian street slang) saying, gbê est mieux que drap: “the truth is better than shame”. Zouglou music gave the youth in Abidjan a platform from which to participate in the public debate...."As is often the case, I've been unable to find out much about Les Côcôs. After their first release, the cassette Zouglou Gnakpa (EMI EO38192-4, 1992), they seemed to disappear without a trace. That one, however, was a good seller and spawned at least one hit, "L'Enfant Yode" (listed as "Les Côcôs" on the inlay card), which has been included on several CD compilations. Enjoy Zouglou Gnakpa now!
Les Côcôs - L'Enfant Yode
Les Côcôs - Nathalie
Les Côcôs - Christina
Les Côcôs - Hommage
Download Zouglou Gnakpa as a zipped file, complete with scans of the inlay card, here.
Friday, October 6, 2017
A few weeks back I got a request for something by Woya from Ivory Coast and I'm happy to comply! The group was formed in 1984 and their fusion of funk, zouk and Ivoirian tradition became the rage of West Africa in 1986 with the release of the hit LP Kacou Ananzé (African 425.004).
The group broke up in the late '80s and has re-formed several times over the years but the core has always been Marcellin Yacé on keyboards and vocalist David Tayorault, who on their own have been major powers in the Ivoirian music scene. Today's offering, the cassette La Tradition en Mouvement (EMI W.CORP01), was released in 1992 during a brief revival of the group. Woya was resurrected again in 1998, but since Yacé was killed by a stray bullet during an attempted coup in 2002 it's doubtful that there will be another incarnation.
I have Kacou Ananzé also and will probably post it some time in the future. For now, enjoy La Tradition en Mouvement!
Woya - Yayaclo Lo
Woya - Ayo
Woya - Zikpê
Woya - Woya Solution
Woya - Vent de l'Est
Woya - Tcha Tchèr
Download La Tradition en Mouvement as a zipped file here.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
We're tired of your pretty speeches,Système Gazeur, in Ambiance Facile (EMI E06991-4, 1991) reject the electronic affectations of more recent zouglou artists like Magic System, Sur-Choc and Esprit de Yop, opting for a more organic, traditional vocal and percussion sound. It's truly execptional!
Tired of the unemployment rate,
Tired of all these untouchables,
Tired of your hospitals,
Tired of insecurity,
Tired of all these hold-ups.¹
Système Gazeur - Zomammanzo
Système Gazeur - Anangotche
Système Gazeur - Awoulaba
Système Gazeur - Sebosei / Bolisika / Gazer
Système Gazeur - Awoulaba / Akepile / Manhouho / Kalaleda
Download Ambiance Facile as a zipped file here.
Mamie Ton Alloco (EMI E0106292-4, 1992), on the other hand, is well within the zouglou mainstream, with the full complement of drum machines and synth (and apparently a much-reduced lineup). It's nonetheless a great release, an excellent representative of the genre:
Système Gazeur - Mamie Ton Alloco
Système Gazeur - Nathalie Tu Exageres
Système Gazeur - Hommage a Fulgence Kassy
Système Gazeur - Te Memin Houmyoua
Système Gazeur - Depayou
Download Mamie Ton Alloco as a zipped file here.
¹ "Music is the Weapon of the Future," by Frank Tenaile, Chicago Review Press, 2002
Monday, August 14, 2017
Popoko (EMI EO173292-4, 1992) is a lively cassette from Ivory Coast by the group Les Woanthios. All I know about them, and the cassette, is this recommendation from the website NATARI:
To that I have nothing to add. It's great!Absolutely outstanding in every way. This virtually all girl group, whose popularity in the
Ivory Coastis second only to 'Woya', are magic through and through. Which isn't surprising as their rich and varied modern dance music has retained its ethnic roots with a great beat, some really lovely guitar and absolutely smashing vocals. Ble Clotilde shines out both on lead guitar and vocals with a style of music that is very different from what you would normally expect from this part of Africa. My favourite tracks are 'Kopka' and 'Damozode' and that was a very difficult choice to make as dance wise 'Popoko' will leave your socks smouldering!
Les Woanthios - Popoko
Les Woanthios - Tropic
Les Woanthios - Kopka
Les Woanthios - Damozode
Les Woanthios - Damozode (Remix)
Les Woanthios - Popoko (Remix)
Download Popoko as a zipped file here.
Monday, February 14, 2011
1. Deka - Ade Liz (Cote d'Ivoire)2. Fide (Le Repos) - N. Lauretta (Cameroun)3. Mumi We Njo - Cella Stella (Benin)4. Je Caime Larsey - Lady Talata (Ghana)5. Oa - Betuel Enola (Cameroun)6. Time - Sissy Dipoko (Cameroun)7. Shameributi - Oyana Efiem Pelagie & Soukous Stars (Gabon)8. Komeka Te - Pembey Sheiro (Congo)9. Mu Mengu - Itsiembu-y-Mbin (Cameroun)10. Mbo Ya? - Lolo (Cameroun)11. Gbaunkalay - Afro National (Sierra Leone)12. Gnon Sanhon - Rose Ba (Togo)13. Djombo - Hadja Soumano (Mali)14. Kanyama - Amayenge (Zambia)15. Mesa Ko Noviwo O - Okyeame Kwame Bediako & his Messengers (Ghana)16. Mede Yta - Yta Jourias (Togo)17. Play Play - Wulomei (Ghana)
Saturday, September 27, 2008
With the kids back in school and monopolizing the computer, and me swamped under a ton of overtime, I just haven't been able to give this blog the attention it deserves. As usual, I have several posts in progress, which I'm putting the finishing touches on, but I haven't wrapped things up yet.
Still, I want to put something up, so here goes:
You're probably familiar with Matt Temple's blog Matsuli Music. Last year, shortly before I started Likembe, I compiled an installment in his great "African Serenades" series. It was Volume 47 in two parts, subtitled African Divas 1 and African Divas 2, a selection of great female vocalists from across the continent.
I'm really proud of the work I did on this collection, but it was only online for a week or two on Matsuli Music. So I'm bringing it back into the light of day here. Here's the tracklist for Volume One:
1. E Beh Kiyah Kooney – Princess Fatu Gayflor (Liberia)There are a few tracks you will recognize if you've been following Likembe for a while, but most may be new to you. In a departure from my usual practice, I'm posting this as a zipped file (108 MB) rather than as individual tracks, as it was meant to be listened to as a unit. An inlay card has been included as a Word file if you want to make your own CD. Volume 2 will follow shortly:
2. Haya – Khadja Nin (Burundi)
3. Ndare – Cécile Kayirebwa (Rwanda)
4. Du Balai – Angèle Assélé (Gabon)
5. Kalkidan – Hamelmal Abate (Ethiopia)
6. Ezi Gbo Dim - Nelly Uchendu (Nigeria)
7. Odo (Love) – Sunsum Band featuring Becky B (Ghana)
8. Dikom Lam La Moto – Charlotte Mbango (Cameroun)
9. Kuteleza Si Kwanguka – Lady Isa (Kenya)
10. Vis à Vis – Monique Seka (Côte d’Ivoire)
11. Femme Commerçante – M’pongo Love (Congo-Kinshasa)
12. Fe, Fe, Fe – Tina Dakoury (Côte d’Ivoire)
13. Koumba – Tshala Muana (Congo-Kinshasa)
14. Fote – Djanka Diabate (Guinea)
African Divas Vol. 1
As promised, here is African Divas Vol. 2, originally posted last year as African Serenades Vol. 47b at Matsuli Music.
I apologize for the brevity of this post. Perhaps in the future when I have more time I will update it to include background information about these wonderful singers:
1. Abidjan Adja - Antoinette Konan (Côte d'Ivoire)African Divas Vol. 2
2. Barika Barika - Djeneba Seck (Mali)
3. Meta Meta - Martha Ashagari (Ethiopia)
4. Ami - Bebe Manga (Cameroun)
5. Ekwe - Onyeka Onwenu (Nigeria)
6. Medim Me Yom - Tity Edima (Cameroun)
7. La Paille et la Poutre - Nimon Toki Lala (Togo)
8. Mundeke - Afrigo Band featuring Rachael Magoola (Uganda)
9. Takko Wade - Kiné Lam (Senegal)
10. Keffa - Abonesh Adnew (Ethiopia)
11. Nyu Madin - Marthe Zambo (Cameroun)
12. Don't Let Me Go - Hindirah (Côte d'Ivoire)
13. Pare Chocs - Vonga Aye (Congo)
14. Dieleul-Dieuleul - Aby Ngana Diop (Senegal)
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I mentioned to someone recently that with two teenagers headed off to college soon I just can't afford to plop down $17-20 for a CD anymore. Therefore, by necessity, this weblog is devoted mainly to older sounds. That means that I haven't heard African Scream Contest, Nigeria Special, or any of the great new reissues that everybody else in the African music blogosphere has been raving about.
In my younger, more carefree days it was a different story. Back in the mid-1980s, when I first discovered Sterns in London, I made several big orders, totaling well over two thousand dollars. A favorable exchange rate didn't hurt either. At one point the Pound Sterling went for $1.03! Even taking postage and import duties into account the cost of a European-pressed LP was roughly equal to what I would pay for an American one. Not, of course, that anything I could get in a U.S. record store could equal anything Sterns had on offer!
I generally didn't order specific recordings from the Sterns people (availability of particular titles was iffy anyway). Rather I would request x number of records, with the instructions that they were to select whatever was the latest and best from each particular country. It sure was a kick to go down to the post office, pay the import duty and then rush home to hear what they'd picked out for me!
In this way I was exposed to an awful lot of excellent sounds that I might not have considered otherwise. I certainly wouldn't have heard any of the music that was coming out of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) those days. As I noted in a previous post, that country has been host to numerous musical styles over the years. The latest is Coupé Decalé, which hit the scene around 2002.
For many years the music of Côte d'Ivoire was overshadowed by the sounds coming out of its neighbors Ghana, Nigeria and especially Congo. Imported R&B from the US was also hugely popular, as it was everywhere in Africa. Local musicians like Amadee Pierre and Anoman Brough Felix made excellent music, but their popularity was confined mainly to their home country.
François Lougah (above) was one of the first Ivoirien musicians to have an international impact. He was born in 1942 in Lakota in the southern central region of Côte d'Ivoire, and had varied careers as a mason, football player and actor before hitting the music scene. His first hit was "Pekoussa" in 1973. Countless chart successes, a brief marriage to Tshala Muana and numerous tours throughout Africa and the world followed until his untimely death in 1997. Here's a hard-hitting track from Lougah's 1976 LP Au Zaïre (Sonafric SAF 50036):
François Lougah - Saka Popia
By the mid '80s, when I got hip to their music, Ivoiriens were in the throes of Ziglibithy fever following the death of the founder and foremost practitioner of the style, Ernesto Djédjé (left). Djédjé was born in 1947 in Tahiraguhé-Ziglo of a Senegalese father and a mother of the Beté ethnic group. He conceived of Ziglibithy as the first truly "Ivoirien" popular music style, a response to the imported sounds washing over Côte d'Ivoire in the 1970s. The unique "jerky" rhythms of Ziglibithy are derived from Beté folklore and the LP Zibote (Badmos BLP 5020), the first recording to showcase the style, caused a sensation when it was released in 1977. Four more successful LPs followed, but on June 9th, 1983, while preparing for his next album, Djédjé died suddenly of an untreated ulcer.
Here is the title track from Ernesto Djédjé's second album Ziglibithiens (Badmos BLP 5021, 1977). It is included on the CD Le Roi du Ziglibithy (Popular African Music PAM ADC 305, 2001), which is available from Sterns:
Ernesto Djédjé - Ziglibithiens
And here is a video of Djédjé doing "Konan Bedié":
Ernesto Djédjé's death was deeply felt all across the Ivoirien music scene, as witness this tribute from the liner notes of the album Ziglibithy-La Continuité (Shakara Music SHA 041, 1983) by Blissi Tebil (right):
Whew! Let's hear Mr. Tebil himself, in a track from that LP:
Is it necessary to repeat pain and fear? Is it necessary to relive the condemned cyclones and dirty dreams of June? He is dead, the king of Ziglibithy, and we cried all the tears of the heart and the body. That which is important was disarming for his pious and passionate disciples, and is less about crying for help or continuing to languish and always standing up tall, face turned toward the fire of the sun is the loud banner for the master whose shining image operates in them. It is about immortalizing the art of a king.
This record attests to the hope that we bring Blissi Tebil, one of the sons of Ernesto Djedje, the only one and certainly among the most filled with promise: let's hold him in our hand in order to illuminate his way that will be long, long, long. . . in order to revive in us, eternally the voice of a dead god.
Blissi Tebil - Hommage à E. Djedje
Nor was Blissi Tebil the only aspirant to the Ziglibithy throne. Lago Luckson Padaud (left), who was also born in Tahiraguhé-Ziglo, has broadened and developed the style through the years. Here he is in a tune from his '83 album Agnon-Nouke (Shakara Music SHA 0036):
Luckson Padaud - N'Gnoa Libie
Jean-Baptiste Zibodi's take on Ziglibithy is not only inventive, as illustrated by this selection from his 1983 LP Wazie Meo (Zib Production ZIB 001), but he is a prolific music executive whose JBZ Studio in Abidjan is a leading production facility in West Africa:
J.B. Zibodi - Gnia Maka
The 1980s saw the emergence onto the world stage of numerous other Ivoirien musicians who were not necessarily part of the Ziglibithy trend but forged their own styles utilizing local inspirations. Okoi Seka Athanase (left), a member of the Atché ethnic group from Affery in the southwestern part of Côte d'Ivoire, was one of them. Here is a tune from his LP Special Album '85 (OSA 2085):
Okoi Seka Athanase - Tcho Bakou
Jane Agnimel (right) hails from Dabou, west of Abidjan, and was a child star known for her songs "Joli Papillon," "La Femme," and "Le Richman et le Racoleuse" when she joined the Orchestra of Radiodiffusin Télévision Ivoirienne. Here she was discovered by Manu Dibango and joined him in performances across Africa. In 1980 she wrote the song "Oyomiya" for the Camerounian singer Bebe Manga. This song is taken from her 1984 LP Zoum/La Fête au Village (Safari Sound SAS 055):
Jane Agnimel - Zoum
Tina Dakoury was a notable musician about whom I've been unable to find any information, although I understand she died several years ago. Her 1984 album Inokeka-Nokeka (Eska Production SK 84001), from which "Fe, Fe, Fe" is taken, is outstanding for several things, including the sparkling guitar work of Souzzy Kasseya:
Tina Dakoury - Fe, Fe, Fe
Let's conclude this overview with another tune by Francois Lougah. In 1994 he released The Best 20 Titres (Gnangui Diffusion 010LSG94), a retrospective cassette featuring rerecorded medleys of his hits, including "Saka Popia," which we heard earlier. The best track, though is this one:
François Lougah - Dehyminiké
Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translations that I used in this post. Further information was derived from the liner notes of Le Roi du Ziglibithy, Ronnie Graham's Sterns Guide to African Music and West Africa magazine. I've been inspired by my research for this post and will probably post more music from Côte d'Ivoire in the future.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Born in the suburbs of Abidjan around 1990, Polihet is just one of a dizzying array of styles that have made that city a musical hotbed to rival Kinshasa, Dakar and Lagos. Ziglibithy, Zouglou, Zoblazo. . . all have made their mark, only to be abandoned as fickle Ivoiriens moved on to the next craze. All of these styles are characterized by criss-crossing polyrythms and frantic, shouted vocals. About Polihet, Nick Deen over at Natari said it best: ". . . I'd love to actually see the dancing that goes with this music in action as I reckon you'd need three pairs of legs just to keep one foot on the ground!"
Gnaore Djimi was Polihet's foremost practitioner, and in response to a request from a reader over at VOA's African Music Treasures, here are some tracks by him. I've been unable to find out anything about Gnaore Djimi, and Pollihet itself seems to have faded away. Our first selection is the title tune from Djimi's 1991 cassette release Azigbo (EMI EO 241191-4):
Gnaore Djimi - Azigbo
Also from 1991, here's the opening track from Nouveau Deux (EMI 012002-4):
Gnaore Djimi et le Polihet "Plus" - Nouveau Deux
Finally, here's a scorcher from 1992's Polihet Innovation '93 (EMI EO 301192-4):
Gnaore Djimi - Zikebou
Gnaore Djimi was by no means Polihet's only representative. Olives Guede was apparently a Gnaore Djimi protegé who had a style that was maybe a bit more straightforward, with a tad less emphasis on the polyrythms and a bit more guitar. Here's the title track from 1991's Solidarite (EMI EO 15491.4):
Olives Guede et le Polihet "Plus" - Solidarite
Click on the pictures to enlarge.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I learned very quickly that there was a huge gulf between what many people out in Bougouni listened to and what was being exported to the West; many local Malians made dismissive sounds with their mouths when I mentioned the above musicians. Many of the cassette vendors I got to know stared blankly when I asked about certain artists. I began to suspect that much of the music I’d heard back in the States was almost created for export rather than for local consumption, and whether or not this was objectively true did not matter. From my perspective it was true. Out en brousse, in the bush, on Radio Banimotie and blaring forth from battery-driven boomboxes and handheld radios carried by any number of people wandering through Southern Mali, there existed an entirely different world of music and sound that I found infinitely more interesting and exciting than the slick pop music made in French, British or Belgian studios. Much of this music was home-grown music performed locally for little else beyond an immediate audience’s enjoyment; it was traditional or folk music but in the hands of the endlessly inventive and dynamic local musicians it exemplified the best qualities of the do-it-yourself attitude that I’d grown up with back home. The name Yaala Yaala was taken directly from what many a Bougounian musician would answer when asked “Ça va?” (how’s it going?); “Yaala yaala,” they’d answer. Just wandering. Yaala Yaala Records’ goal is to release this music, in addition to similar music from parts of the world, particularly Mali and West Africa, that you might hear if you were wandering yourself among the cassette stalls in Bougouni, Bamako, Kolondieba, Sikasso, Segou, Fez, Marrakesh, Cairo, Dakar. We’re releasing this music for no other reason than we like it!
This is the final installment of "Mali Cassette Grab Bag," and this one really is a mixed bag. We've got some highlife, some soukous, some kamalan n'goni and a Burkinabé ballad. Researching the artists has been an education for me. Among other things, I chanced across the website of Yaala Yaala Records, which is dedicated to releasing just the sort of music we've been listening to in the last few posts:
An attitude with which I wholeheartedly concur! This description of the music scene in Mali pretty much squares with my experiences in Nigeria in 1994 and '95: It wasn't that the average person didn't listen to Sunny Adé or Fela (who was still alive and performing then, a couple of years before he died; I could just kick myself for not catching an advertised concert in Lagos when I was there!) or the other official World Music™ icons. They respected them, but those guys were pretty much old hat. The common folk had a whole 'nother universe of sounds they were tuned into, which blared out of market stalls and taxicabs across the country: Igbo gospel accompanied by cheapo synthesizers and drum machines, wailing, warbling Islamic vocals, soul-thumping perscussion, Hausa praise-singing and hysterical guitar highlife. . .
In 1999 I moved with my wife and young son to Bougouni, a town on the edge of Mali’s culturally rich Wassulu region. I’d listened to and enjoyed such Malian musical imports as Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita, Toumani Diabite and Habib Koite while still living in the States and was excited to get to Mali to learn more about these and other artists.
But I digress. While researching our first four selections on the internet, I was presented with a bit of a quandary. I had thought that these recordings were all by the same artist, but it seems that they are by two different musicians named Mamadou Doumbia, one from Mali and the other from Côte d'Ivoire! And to further befuddle matters, there is yet another Malian musician named Mamadou Doumbia residing in Tokyo, who once played with the Rail Band and Salif Keita and has a band called Mandinka (not to mention an Ivoirian footballer by the same name, who as far as I know has no musical talent!)
I think I've got things sorted out now, so let's proceed: Our first Mamadou Doumbia, "alias Percey," was lead vocalist for Super Biton de Segou, one of Mali's foremost orchestras of the 1980s. When Super Biton fell apart, he struck out on his own, making at least one recording, 1992's outstanding Kelea Diougou (Camara Production 047), from which we take two tracks, "Momdole" and "Secheresse (Dabakala)." "Momdole" is unusual in that it is a melody in the Burkina Faso style.
Mamadou Doumbia alias Percey - Momdole
Mamadou Doumbia alias Percey - Secheresse (Dabakala)
Our next Mamadou Doumbia has apparently been around since the sixties, but that's all I can tell you about him. He gives us two highlife-style songs, "Mariama" and "Olonan," from his 1993 release Mariama (no label YR 07). As an Ivoirian, this Mamadou technically doesn't belong in a post entitled "Mali Cassette Grab-Bag," but who wants to split hairs?
Mamadou Doumbia & l'Orchestre Conseil de l'Entente - Mariama
Mamadou Doumbia & l'Orchestre Conseil de l'Entente - Olonan
And as for the third Mamadou Doumbia, I would love to put up some music by him, but unfortunately don't have any.
Abdoulaye Diabaté, born in Segou in1952, has been singing since he was eight and professionally since 1974, at first in Mali and later in Côte d'Ivoire, and has lately drawn international attention with a series of CD releases. "Fantanya" is the opening track of his casseette Namawou (Syllart SYL 83135):
Abdoulaye Diabaté - Fantanya
Yoro Diallo is from the Wassoulou region, which has produced so many wonderful Malian vocalists, and is a master of the kamalan n'goni, a relative of the kora. Awhile back Awesome Tapes from Africa posted a whole cassette by this artist, and the above-mentioned Yaala Yaala Records has released a CD devoted to his music. I give you here " Tognomagni" from his release Tjekorobani Vol. 2 (Camara Production CK7 157):
Yoro Diallo - Tognomagni
Finally, a track by Djelimadi Sissoko. There is a kora player by that name, who has made some recordings with the veteran maestro Sidiki Diabate, but this song, "Sory Kadia," from the compilation Sabougnouna (no label 7488) is so radically different in style that I'm wondering if this isn't another case of one name, two musicians. Anyway, "Sory Kadia" is ample proof that the wave of soukous that swept out of the Congo in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties did not bypass Mali!
Djelimadi Sissoko - Sory Kadia
As I mentioned earlier, "Mali Cassette Grab Bag" came about because I haven't had time to digitize a lot of new material, so I've been posting stuff that I've had on my hard-drive for some time. I've been working on digitizing some early '70s LPs by the late, great Stephen Osita Osadebe, and hope to have them up, with the requisite commentary, in the next week.
I learned very quickly that there was a huge gulf between what many people out in Bougouni listened to and what was being exported to the West; many local Malians made dismissive sounds with their mouths when I mentioned the above musicians. Many of the cassette vendors I got to know stared blankly when I asked about certain artists.
I began to suspect that much of the music I’d heard back in the States was almost created for export rather than for local consumption, and whether or not this was objectively true did not matter. From my perspective it was true. Out en brousse, in the bush, on Radio Banimotie and blaring forth from battery-driven boomboxes and handheld radios carried by any number of people wandering through Southern Mali, there existed an entirely different world of music and sound that I found infinitely more interesting and exciting than the slick pop music made in French, British or Belgian studios.
Much of this music was home-grown music performed locally for little else beyond an immediate audience’s enjoyment; it was traditional or folk music but in the hands of the endlessly inventive and dynamic local musicians it exemplified the best qualities of the do-it-yourself attitude that I’d grown up with back home.
The name Yaala Yaala was taken directly from what many a Bougounian musician would answer when asked “Ça va?” (how’s it going?); “Yaala yaala,” they’d answer. Just wandering.
Yaala Yaala Records’ goal is to release this music, in addition to similar music from parts of the world, particularly Mali and West Africa, that you might hear if you were wandering yourself among the cassette stalls in Bougouni, Bamako, Kolondieba, Sikasso, Segou, Fez, Marrakesh, Cairo, Dakar.
We’re releasing this music for no other reason than we like it!