At first I thought the title of today's featured recording, L'Oiseau de Sankara (BGDA 91007, 1992), was a tribute to the late President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, who was martyred in 1987. Apparently, though, it was a typo by whoever designed the cassette cover, one that has been repeated in several reissues since! The artist involved, Kerfala Kante, apparently hails from the village of Sankaran in northern Guinea. The title, therefore, should be L'Oiseau de Sankaran, "The Bird of Sankaran." This was the first solo outing for Mr. Kante, although thankfully not his last!
Like many musicians from this part of West Africa, Mr. Kante is a hereditary griot, and began playing balafon (traditional xylophone) at an early age, later transitioning to the guitar. He joined the Tropical Djoli Band de Faranah in 1980 and Balla & ses Balladins in 1984. Unfortunately, this latter move coincided with the collapse of the Guinean music industry following the death of President Sekou Touré. So he was without a musical home for a few years.
Released in 1992, L'Oiseau de Sankara is a great example of the sort of "New Guinean" music we've discussed here earlier, by artists like Kadé Diawara and Yaya Bangoura. It takes as its starting point the traditional sounds of Guinea. However, rather than the full compliment of guitars and brass instruments that distinguished the country's music in the Sekou Touré era, it utilizes a more stripped-down sound, with maybe one electric guitar, bass and synth supplemented by traditional instruments like the kora and balafon. Unfortunately the inlay card for this cassette does not credit these fine musicians! Some of Kerfala Kante's more recent recordings are available for sale and download on various sites. Enjoy!
Kerfala Kante - Kaniteya
Kerfala Kante - N'na Djassana
Download L'Oiseau de Sankara as a zipped file here.