New Horizons

I recall, when I was travelling, one of the most dramatic and exicting events was entering a new country. Initially, there is all the bureaucracy of completing forms, locating the correct person/stamp/window to go with the form, changing currency, getting exit stamps, extrance stamps and  navigating customs. Then you are greeted with the sights and sounds of a new destination, have to get used to the language, public transport, food and the people. It takes several days before the new becomes familar. It is an invigorating, overwealming experience and, for me, is one of the joys of travelling.

Figuratively, we enter a new country on this musical quest through Africa. Guinea-Conakry, not Guinea-Bissau, is nestled on the West African coast between Sierra Leone and Liberia, in the South, Mali and Senegal in the North, and Ivory Coast in the West. It was part of French West Africa until it gained independence in 1958, it was not until 1984 that Lansana Conté became the first President and Diarra Traoré Prime Minister following a peaceful coup that ended nearly 30 years of autocratic rulers.

Today’s post is on Syli Authentic, a band comprising of students of aged between 14 and 16, which considering the beauty and complexity of the music is a real shock. It sound like experienced and highly competent musicians have recorded this LP. The release is on the well known and highly influencial Syliphone record label.

This has really opened my eyes to the sounds that were coming out of Guinea, that warrant further exploration. It feels like I have just set foot into a new and wonderful place.


Record Details:
Syli Authentic – Dans L’Arène (1976) – Editions Syliphone Conakry (SLP 57)

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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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