Priceless Love

Staying in Mali and Ivory Coast today. Leon Keita released two LPs, both untitled. The first record, showing Keita sitting cross-legged and bordered in turquoise, came out in 1978 and featured vocals of Salif Keita on a couple of tracks. A year or two later, so we are looking at late 70’s, his second and arguably stronger album was released, showing Leon framed in purple standing, flashing a peace sign. Both records were released on Leon Keita’s own Ivory Coast based, Disco-Papa label, which also released records by Pierre Antoine and Kambou Clement.

The selection from today, L’amour Ne S’achete Pas, “Love Cannot be Bought”, starts as typical Madingo music, in the Griot traditional of this region, but then descends into pure Afro Funk with trumpets, and an amazing organ solo. The effect is jaw dropping and a total departure from how the song started.

[audio]L’amour Ne S’achete Pas

Record Details:
Leon Keïta – Untitled (197?) – Papa-Disco (Disco 018)

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A Little Bit of Sunshine

Mali has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The internal conflict is tearing the country apart, with approximately half a million people displaced according to the latest United Nations estimates. With elections set for a couple of months times hopefully relative stability will be restored or at least an end to fighting and reported human rights abuses, but things do not look great.

In these troubled times it is important to focus on what makes Mali great; namely the music, which is some of the best in the world. Today’s selection is a slice of Malian disco from the early 1980’s by the International Soleil Band. The great guitarist Sarati Diabaté “dit Vieux” is credited as being the band leader and the organ is played by Ivory Coast musician Houon Pierre, who also produced and was responsible for the sound engineering on several Badmos releases.

Houon Pierre

His organ solo on today’s track Ta Lassa, is spiritual, and I urge you all to get to your knees if you can stop dancing! Diabaté’s beautiful guitar is just incredible and with the deep vocals the song explodes, not letting go, sending waves of shivers down the spine.

Help me God!

Ta Lassa

Record Details:
International Soleil Band – International Soleil Band (1983) – West Africa Music (WAM) (793.016)
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Going International

Today I have decided to stay in Mali and with the same band(s), as their influence is huge and warrants further coverage. It is only now that I am starting to see the staggering amount of artists and bands that have come out of this extended musical family.

Les Ambassadeurs were rivaling the Rail Band as the biggest group in Mali in the 1970s, and to decide the title a battle of the bands concert was organised in 1974. Both bands had to write a song to perform at the gig to decide the most popular group. However, it was all in vain as a draw was agreed upon on the day.

Economic problems in Mali meant that Les Ambassadeurs relocated to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from 1978 and became Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux. The band’s popularity continued to grow and they moved onto Paris in the early to mid 1980s becoming one of the most popular international African bands.

Today’s selection is from their early 80s album, on an Ivory Coast label, released around the same time that Salif Keita left the band for a solo career in Paris, to be replaced by Sorry Bamba. The western influence of Jazz and Funk are clear in today’s track, Wassalloun Foli, but the percussion and Keita’s vocals root it firmly in Africa. Strangely there is no mention of Kanté Manfila on the record but he was, to my knowledge, still the band’s leader despite the rivalry with Keita.

For detailed information on Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band‘s connections please see the valuable resource here.

Record Details:

Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux – Djougouya (1982?) – AS Records (AS 008)

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Music for the Soul

Mali has long been revelled for its music and it does produce some of African’s most glorious and complex. The main musical influence comes from the Mande people, who make up half of the population and are spread throughout a large proportion of West Africa, from Senegal to Ghana.

There is a oral tradition in Mali, known as Griot, where musicians, or other oral historians such as a writers and poets, are responsible for preserving, as well as, passing on history and documenting current events. The role is an important one in society, with the tradition often being kept within the family, and passed down from father to son. The Mande people produced some of the best known music incorporating traditional African instruments, such as the Kora and the Balfon, into popular music.

Today’s selection is from two musicians that remarkably only collaborated once on an album in the mid-eighties. Mamadi Diabaté was a Malian singer and guitarist, who initially worked as a tailor in Bamako, before embarking on a short music career, recording only two albums. The later of these two albums was made with Manfila Kanté, the legendary Guinean guitarist, who formed Les Ambassadeurs, who were later joined by Salif Keita, the Rail Band vocalist. Quite a musical pedigree!

I would die a happy man listening to Kanté’s guitar on Iye Iye; I just don’t want the break to ever end. This is certainly heavenly stuff, and with Diabaté’s vocals it becomes a spiritual experience.

If you are not moved by this you probably have no soul!

Record Details:

Mamadi Diabaté et les Ambassadeurs – A Pas de Géant (1985) – Kaba Disques (KAB 8201)

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