Since its foundation in 1970 as the official orchestra of Mali's National Railway Company, the Rail Band has occupied a prominent place in the firmament of West African music, and through its ranks have passed some of the most respected musicians in the region. The band's Affair Social (Sacodis LS-25, 1979) is such a spectacular, mind-blowing achievement that I figured one of the other African music blogs must have posted it long ago. But apparently not, so here it is!
Affair Social was recorded during a tumultuous period for the Rail Band, relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast from Bamako and rechristened the Super Rail Band International. Salif Keita, the group's lead singer, had decamped in 1972 to found Les Ambassadeurs du Motel and later gained world fame as part of the World Music™ craze. He was replaced by Mory Kante, an equally gifted vocalist, who by the time Affair Social was recorded had also departed for a solo career. Other members of the "classic" Rail Band lineup, among them founder Tidiani Koné, had similarly moved on.
Perservering, though, was Djelimady Tounkara, one of Africa's greatest guitarists, who reestablished the band with new personnel, none of whom, unfortunately, is credited in the liner notes of Affair Social. The Super Rail Band International have continued performing and recording to this day, still under the able leadership of Tounkara. Enjoy!
Download Affair Social as a zipped file here.