Burkina Electric was the first electronica band from Burkina Faso, in the deep interior of West Africa. With its main base in the music scene of Wagadugu, Burkina Faso’s capital, it was, at the same time, an international band, with members living in New York, U.S.A. and Dusseldorf, Germany, as well as in Waga. In Burkina Electric’s music, the traditions and rhythms of Burkina Faso met and mingle with contemporary electronic dance culture, making it a trailblazer in electronic world music.
Before starting Burkina Electric in 2004, band members Mai Lingani, Wende K. Blass, Pyrolator, and Lukas Ligeti had become close friends as members of Beta Foly, a group that emerged from a workshop led by Lukas and Pyrolator in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which, among other experiments, created some of the earliest fusions of techno/trip-hop with African traditional music.
The core band consisted of four musicians and two dancers, often augmented by guests. Rupert Huber, of the well-known Austrian electronica duo Tosca, collaborated and performed with the group on selected occasions. All songs were composed and choreographed collaboratively by all group members, and the music was directed toward an audience appreciative of electronica/club culture.
Much electronic dance music, even in Africa, still seems to employ the same rock and funk rhythms that have been used in Western pop for the past 50 years. Burkina Electric challenged this convention, enriching the fabric of this music by using different rhythms, equally danceable but rarely heard. Many of the songs were built upon ancient rhythms of the Sahel such as the Mossi peoples’ Waraba and Wennenga, little-known even in Africa outside of Burkina. The dancers, whose choreographies combined elements of the traditional and the modern, invited listeners to discover that these exotic rhythms groove at least as powerfully as disco, house or drum & bass!
The group also created new rhythms influenced by traditional grooves, and used sounds of traditional instruments and found sounds and soundscapes recorded in Burkina in unusual ways. It is truly African electronica, both experimental and entertaining. The performance is further enhanced by the use of live-manipulated video.
Award-winning singer Mai Lingani, a star in Burkina Faso because of her unique voice and charismatic stage presence, sings in Mossi, Diula, Bissa, and French. Wende K. Blass, one of Burkina’s premier guitarists, contributed soulful guitar melodies. Electronicist/VJ Pyrolator was of Germany’s most inventive pop musicians and a top producer ever since the days of the “Neue Deutsche Welle” some 25 years as a founding member of bands D.A.F. and Der Plan, while New York-based drummer/electronicist Lukas Ligeti received commissions from groups such as the Kronos Quartet and the Bang on a Can All Stars.
Burkina Electric was formed for a tour in Austria in 2004. In May 2006, the group performed at the Festival Jazz Ouaga in Burkina Faso and released its debut album, “Paspanga”, in Burkina Faso. Two video clips, produced for Burkinabe TV, received heavy play in Burkina Faso and surrounding countries.
Reem Tekre EP (Atatak, 2007)
Paspanga (Cantaloupe, 2010)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.