All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several 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 and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Artist Profiles: Kristo Numpuby

Kristo Numpuby – Photo by Samy Nja Kwa

Born in Paris and raised in Eseka in Cameroon, Kristo Numpuby plays assiko music, the traditional rhythm of the southern Cameroon forests, using a guitar, knives, forks and spoons and empty bottles for the percussion. Singer, bassist and guitarist, the Afro-Parisian draws on the rhythms of the forest as inspiration for his compositions.

At the age of 8, he began composing songs for children, and took an interest in percussion. “In the village, there were always evenings with musicians, either baptisms, marriages or wakes,” he said. They became opportunities for me to admire the percussionists, playing bare-chested with their big muscles.? The education that his musician-grandmother gave him made Kristo a boy with a great interest in anything musical. “My grandmother, Ngueba, ran a bar in Eseka, he explains. “We listened to lots of different music all day long?classical, jazz, rhythm and blues, James Brown, Afro-Cuban, rumba from Zaire, highlife, makossa and biguine. You could say that I was totally immersed in a very colorful music world.”

Kristo received his first guitar at age 12. He began playing all the hits he heard on the radio. Two years later, he was a guitarist in one of the four groups in his school. At 18, he formed a trio that played only his own compositions. The three musicians constantly played each other?s instruments during their concerts. He was the lead singer in a group that mostly played assiko music, which no young people usually played.

Kristo says, “My buddies didn’t understand how a guy like me who spent his vacations in Paris was still interested in village music. Even though I liked disco and all the music in fashion, that music still fascinated me. Why? I can’t tell you. But I found real pleasure in playing Jean Bikoko, Medjo Me Nsom and Dikoum Bernard, and to finger the guitar strings like them in an unusual way. The assiko musicians and dancers have a special knowledge and a particular technique. I liked their style of music because it was different. But I was just as interested in classical technique as in that of the forest guitarists.”

In 1990, Kristo Numpuby got back into the music he had somewhat left behind. “After finishing high school in Duala, I went to the University of Yaunde, before heading off to Paris in 1986. I wanted to be a TV director. There were such beautiful posters in the metro and TV ads that left you breathless: “Generation Mitterrand, Citroen cars, Dim stockings?I was completely subjugated. There were advertising schools everywhere. I got a technical qualification and then for your years I was an advertising wonder kid. This is how I wound up in the studio to oversee the recording of advertisements that I was responsible for. We had a problem finding musicians. I reacted quickly, and Morning Limbe, a blues piece composed in 1982, became the soundtrack.”

Eventually, music replaced advertising. Kristo began hanging out in recording and rehearsal studios, and became a studio bass player. “In December of 94, I was touring in Ghana with an African star for the Panafest. At the hotel, I ran into Stevie Wonder. I had about 20 of his records at home. When we finished talking, he asked me if I had some work of mine he could listen to. I had nothing to show him from what I had been doing musically. That’s when I understood that I had to record my compositions.

After his first album, Assiko City (Lon Yes/Night & Day) in 1997, Kristo Numpuby developed a faithful following in Paris, and played the prestigious New Morning venue that December. The following year, in 1998, he played on the radio and television show, ?Africa Live,? and took part in the Afro-Pfingsten Festival in Winterthur, in Switzerland. A number of his instrumental cuts were used as soundtracks for radio and television clips.

On stage, Kristo varies in style from sharp traditional African rhythms to the folk sounds of African-Americans, played on acoustic instruments. This singer-guitarist, accompanied by a percussionist bottle player and two other musicians, is one of those artists who excites and surprises his audience at every concert.


Assiko City (Lon Yes/Night & Day, 1997)
An Sol Mè (Lon Yes/Night & Day, 2001)
Brassens en Afrique (Lon Yes/Mosaic Music, 2007)


Artist Profiles: Henri Dikongue

Henri Dikongue

Henri Dikongue was born December 6, 1967 in Duala, Cameroon. Henri Dikongué grew up as part of a family of musicians. He was raised in the capital city, Yaunde, where he learned acoustic guitar from his uncle. His grandmother brought him to a Protestant choir where he first learned to sing. Like all young people in Cameroon, Dikongué was surrounded by the vibrant sound of makossa, a bubbling dance rhythm that blends guitar lines with unstoppable percussion.

It took years of soul searching before he was willing to devote himself to a life in music. After going to Switzerland to live with his sister, who had emigrated there, he soon became disenchanted with the Swiss system and moved to Bensacon, a French city near the Swiss border, where he began to study law. Dikongué obtained a law degree, but soon discovered that music was his true passion, so he joined the pan-African music and Theater Company Masques & Tam-Tam. There he met singer Alfred M’Bongo and percussionist Manuel Wandji, both of whom would become very influential in his career. He then joined Banthu Marantha, a South African vocal group for which he composed several songs. Dikongué moved to Paris in 1989 where he became a devout student of classical guitar. All the while he maintained strong connections with the creative African music scene in Paris. His first album, “Wa,” was praised by critics who saw him as a representative of the new generation of African musicians, creating melodic music that is intelligent, poetic and innovative.


Wa (1995)
C’est la vie – This is life (Tinder, 1997)
N’oublie jamais – Never forget (2000)
Mot’a Bobe (Tinder, 2000)
Biso Nawa (2005)
Diaspora (Buda Musique, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Gino Sitson

Gino Sitson

Gino Sitson is a Cameroonian who is considered a jazz singer, yet sings mostly in his native Bamileke language. His phrasing reminds one of Bobby McFerrin or Al Jarreau.

He is the only singer incorporating indigenous African polyphonic technique into the jazz vocal tradition, and not only that, his musical, as opposed to lyrical, compositions constantly plays with both traditions.

While living in France, major musical names like Manu Dibango, Jorge Ben, Papa Wemba, Ray Lema and John Williams all employed him to take a lead singing role in their projects.

Gino Sitson moved to New York City in 2001.


Vocal Deliria
Song Zin’… Vocadelic Tales (2000)
Bamisphere, with Ron Carter (Polyvocal Records, 2005).
Way to Go (Alessa Records, 2009)
Listen – Vocal Deliria II (Buda Musique, 2013)
VoiStrings (Buda Musique, 2013)
Body & Voice (Buda Musique, 2016)


Artist Profiles: Francis Mbappe

Francis Mbappe

A native of Cameroon, Francis Mbappe is a talented bassist who has graced the stage with musical greats such as Herbie Hancock, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti, Ashanti Tokoto, Francois Louga, and Ernesto Djedje.

By the age of nineteen Mbappe was bass player and musical director for Manu Dibango’s band, with whom he toured extensively from 1982 until 1990. He appears on the albums Surtension, Abele Dance, Baobab Sunset and the renowned Wakafrika release which also featured Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, and King Sunny Ade.

Upon arrival to New York City in the 1990s, Francis started the band FM Tribe with some of the most exciting, innovative players around. With funk in the conception, rock in the attitude, swing in the movement and soul in the spirit, Francis Mbappe led his band FM Tribe through the New York City music circuit and recorded a stylistically revolutionary album entitled Need Somebody.

Before becoming one of New York’s most sought after bass players, Francis also co-produced and arranged the album Guido Vittale for Koning Plank, featuring Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, as well as working on music for the film Young Maestro, featuring Elizabeth Taylor and directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Francis Mbappe also runs his music production company FM Groove Inc., bringing people of different races, educations and backgrounds together in an attempt to unify people through acts of artistic expression.


Need Somebody (FM Groove, 2000)
Celebration (FM Groove, 2005)
Seeds of Djuke (liveWired Music, 2009)
Peace is Freedom (FM Groove, 2010)


Artist Profiles: Kong Nay

Kong Nay

Kong Nay was born March 15, 1944 in Kampot, Cambodia. With his trademark dark glasses, he is Cambodia’s most recognizable traditional musician. He is always in demand for Cambodian cultural events and is regularly appearing on Cambodian television.

Blinded by smallpox at the age of four, Kong Nay began his studies on the chapei dang weng lute at thirteen. Chapei, named afte the musical instrument, is a traditional form of improvised song-making that is often compared to American Delta Blues.

Coming from a musical family, Kong Nay grew up around relatives who were masters of traditional instruments, copying religious manuscripts, Buddhist chanting, poetry and the chapei dang weng. In his youth, Kong Nay often faced ridicule from his peers for his disability. Rather than being disempowered by their prejudice, however, Kong Nay sought to find a vocation that would bring him independence and respect. The chapei, whose sound had excited him from childhood, turned out to be the perfect instrument. Within two years of beginning his studies, at the age of fifteen Kong Nay began to perform professionally. His reputation grew quickly, and he soon earned the nickname Kung “Handsome” Nay.

Kong Nay, while still sometimes performing classical poems like those by Phirum Ngoy, is best known from his incredible gift for improvisation, a prized skill he acquired after studying poetry for nearly two decades.

During the Khmer Rouge genocide, Kong Nay, like so many other Cambodians, was forced to work for long hours with little food. Unlike most of his fellow musicians, however, Kong Nay was unbelievably spared from the regime’s attempts to wipe out intellectuals and artists.

In 2007 he received the Gold Grand Cross of Cambodia Cultural Reputation by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In 2017 Kong Nay received the Arts and Culture Prize of the prestigious Fukuoka Prize.


A Cambodian Bard (INEDIT/Maison des Cultures du Monde, 2006)
Mekong Delta Blues (Long Tale Recordings, 2007), with Ouch Savvy


Artist Profiles: Ouch Savy

Ouch Savy

Ouch Savy is Kong Nay’s female protege. Savy is one of the new generation of Chapei musicians who are at the beginning of an emerging musical awareness that could come to rival imported karaoke and pop.

“There is nothing wrong with popular music,” she says, “but we Cambodians have to do something new for ourselves rather than merely copying other countries’ music. By putting traditional and modern music together, I want to play something that young people have never heard before.”

Savy has already made over 20 television appearances and performed improvisational pieces with the Los Angeles-based Khmer American fusion outfit, Dengue Fever. Her talent is widely recognized.


Mekong Delta Blues, with Master Kong Nay ‎(Long Tale Recordings RWLT002, 2007)
Sarikakeo, with Ieng Pheakdey Samnang and leng Sithul (Three Sixty Records, 2009)


Artist Profiles: Khadja Nin

Khadja Nin

Khadja Nin was born in 1959 and raised in Burundi, a small African country squeezed in between two gigantic territories, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. She grew up peacefully in a family of eight children, where she made her first steps into music.

Music was always for fun“, she confesses, though she already wished to be Myriam Makeba. When she turned 16, she left her family and went to Congo to pursue her studies. At the age of 17, she met her future husband and moved with him into the forest, where they ran some lodges for tourists in search of big thrills. She also gave birth to her son and thought that for her music was definitely over.

In 1980, while everything seemed to flow happily, her life changed dramatically. She left Africa for Europe with her new family. But her first experience on the old continent turned out to be very tough. She first lost some of her close relatives, then her husband suddenly died. “I was left alone with my child in a foreign country and I didn’t know anybody. I started to apply for jobs, sometimes the lowest ones in order to make a living“, Khadja says almost casually. In 1985, she met musician Nicolas Piszman, who proved to be a positive turning point in her life. Nicolas fell artistically in love with ‘this princess from out of the blue’ and soon they started to write songs together. Khadja says about him: “Nicolas is the Nin of Khadja Nin. “They had to wait until 1991 to sign their first recording contract. Immediately seduced by this duet with a unique blend of African and European sounds, BMG signed them on the spot. Their eponymous debut album was well received in the world music scene.

In 1994, she released her second album Ya Pili and performed live continually – “Something essential in one’s musical career. Being on stage is the only way to improve, to take risks and to directly thank your fans” – she comments.

Real fame came in 1996. In an attempt to buy itself some cultural credibility and to make a break from previous fake projects, the most powerful French TV channel, TF1, selected Khadja Nin as its summer act with her third album Sambolera (which consisted of broadcasting one of the artist’s videos several times a day during the summer). It could have been a risky choice for-the channel, as well as for Khadja herself. “People often asked me whether I was afraid to be swallowed up by TF1. The answer was: ‘No, I’m not edible’. This opportunity just helped me to reach a larger audience and to move faster. As I knew exactly where I stood, I did not fear anything for my own credibility.”

The future proved her right. Her career and her music kept the same level of credibility after she had sold more than 420,000 copies of Sambolera worldwide, a huge success for her partners and a big acknowledgement from France and the rest of Europe. In 1998, Khadja recorded Ya. “The whole set up for the recording of Ya… was great. We moved to South London and stayed in a country house where we installed a mobile studio. Thus, I could invite my musicians and guests, such as I Muvrini (from Corsica), as if I was at home. Beside the friendly spirit of the place, it gave us a chance with Nicolas to develop our working relationship much further. He writes most of the music and I concentrate on the lyrics, but we speak the same language. After so many years together, our style gets sharper and finds its own harmony,” said Khadja.

Khadja sings in Swahili and Kirundi. “Ya… is a bit different from my previous albums as it marks a big change in my life. The first twenty years of my life were wonderful and I will always keep them in my mind. The following twenty years were tough with the loss of very dose people and my experience of war, hard times and loneliness, with a child to raise. So I hope that the next twenty years will be a rebirth, a new freedom. With this record, I cast off my old skin for a new one. I treat the former era with a lot of respect and decency but I definitely get rid of my mourning dress.”


Khadja Nin (1992)
Ya Pili (1994)
Sambolera (1996)
Ya… (1998)


Artist Profiles: Fatoumata “Djeli Mama” Dembele

Fatoumata Dembele – Photo by F. Meier 2006

Fatoumata Dembele is a griot, singer, dancer. She was born in 1972 in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. She is the daughter of griot parents and thus inherited the tradition of these musical messengers by following her mother to ceremonies and rituals from the age of seven. Her father built and played the bala (balafon).

At 25 she worked full-time as a griot at ceremonies, rituals and festivities, accompanied by jembe players when she performed in the Diula language, by full orchestras (traditional or electrified) at performances sung in the Manding language.

In 1998 she took part at a music festival in Bobo-Dioulasso with her own group. After her performance she was asked to join the internationally known group Farafina as a singer.

Since 1999 she toured with Farafina all over the world. She contributed compositions of her own, sings solos and dances.

In 2000 her tours with Farafina took her from Switzerland to Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany where they also played at the world EXPO 2000 in Hannover. The same year she took part in the recording of Farafina’s CD Kanou.

In Burkina Faso she performed with her own group under the name of Tim Tim at a competition by the “Coordination des Associations pour la Lutte contre le Sida” (coordination of associations for the fight against AIDS). Among the 30 groups she won fist prize with her song ‘Sida Ka Taa’. She was invited to perform at Burkina’s main TV station and gave a concert at a reunion of doctors from her country.

In 2001 and 2002 she toured again with Farafina in order to promote the release of their CD Kanou. They toured in Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and played in Israel at the ‘Jerusalem Freedom Festival 2002’.

Also in 2002 she took part, with Farafina, in the project Sirafaran (“crossroads”) on the occasion of the EXPO 02 at the Neuchatel Expo site in Switzerland. Sirafaran is a collaboration between the group Farafina and Swiss jazz musicians Mathieu Michel (trumpet), Bertrand blessing (drums), Dragos Tara (bass) and Laurent Estoppey (sax).

In 2003 she also performed with Farafina at the film festival “Fespaco” in Wagadugu, capital of Burkina Faso.

In the same year she recorded the song ‘Delie’ (“acquaintance”) as a duet with the famous blind musician olo Dia Kabaco. They also produced a video clip of the song which is still being on TV in Burkina Faso and Mali.

In 2004 she returned, with Farafina, to Switzerland, France, Britain (Africa Oye Festival), Belgium, Italy (Folkest 2004),Germany, Croatia, Slovenia and Tunisia.

She was also invited as the featured solo singer to record three songs on the CD Sira Fila by the group Bekadiya, a project organized by the balafon player Mamadou Diabate who lives in Vienna, Austria. With this group she performed at several concerts in Austria.

In 2005 she went back on tour with Bekadiya. She also worked with a new project together with Achim Tang (bass), Mamadou Diabate (bala) and Lukas Knoefler (drums) and performed with her own small group (Buskers Bern, a.o.).

Having been living in Switzerland since 2003 she all the same never has forgotten that she is first and foremost a traditional griot and she has been continuing to sing at ceremonies on every visit to her native country Burkina Faso (her return often impatiently awaited by her employers).

In 2006 she pursued her work with Bekadiya. She also joined the group Taffetas which consisted of Nana Cissokho (kora, vocals), Marc Lieberskind (guitar) and Christophe Erard (bass, vocals) and has recorded the CD Cam?l?on with them. In addition she gave duo concerts with her regular kora player Nana Cissokho and with her own group in Switzerland. She also produced her first CD under her own name.

Her CD Nananiba came out in early march 2007.


Artist Profiles: Burkina Electric

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)


Artist Profiles: Badenya les Freres Coulibaly

Badenya les Freres Coulibaly

Formed in Nuna, located in northwestern Burkina Faso, Badenya les Freres Coulibaly are part of a family of griots (musician storytellers, also known as jali and jeli in West Africa) and are members of the Bwa ethnic group.

Originally composed by the twins Lassina and Ousseni and known as les Freres Coulibaly, the group grew up to 8 members of the Coulibaly family and are called Badenya les Freres Coulibaly.

Lassina and Ousseni traveled for the first time to Europe in 1989. Invited by the “Atelier of Ethnomusicology” in Geneva to teach African percussion and dance. From there, they traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and the UK. The public was instantly conquered by their natural ease, their radiation, which emanated from these young musicians freshly arrived from Burkina Faso. Their togetherness seemed perfect an inalterable, no disagreement seemed possible between them.

After this first tour, they returned to Bobo-Dioulasso and the year after, the twins came back with their elder brother, Souleymane, called Solo, who had initiated them to music.

Invited to the Montreux Jazz Festival they performed under the artistic direction of Quincy Jones for an evening with Miles Davis. In reaction to this success, Claude Nobs and Quincy Jones invited the trio for 2 additional nights and they got to play with Georges Clinton, Georges Benson, Al Jarreau, Toots Thielmans, the rappers Kool Moe Dee, Mel Mellow and many others.

In 1991-1992, the W.H.O. (World Health Organization) asked Lassina & Ousseni, and Solo to compose a song in French, dedicated for the opening ceremony of the “World Day of AIDS”. Les Freres Coulibaly played for la Fondation Sacem in Paris for the “Night of percussion” with Michel Portal, Daniel Humair, Mino Cin?lu and David Friedmann. Their concert was welcomed with warmth and admiration and was a remarkable start onto the Parisian scene.

In 1993, Solo, Lassina and Ousseni released their first album Anka-Dia. They flew to Tunisia to teach percussion and the next year, flew to Spain, (Madrid and Barcelona) to be part of an African festival with Salif Keita, Cesaria Evora, Khaled and Johnny Clegg. Then les Freres Coulibaly were invited by Baaba Maal in Senegal for his tenth anniversary in the music world. There they met Peter Gabriel and shared several exceptional performances with Youssou N’Dour.

1997- 1999: On tour and preparing their next album they were invited to perform for a series of concerts Tribute to Rhythm with the great tabla player, Zakir Hussain and the former Kodo drummer, Leonard Eto.

2000-2001: Release of the second album “Seniwe (Solidarity) with the entire family. The promotional tour for the album took the group to America, Israel, Malaysia, Germany and Austria. The following year they flew everywhere in Europe and in June, Carlos Santana invited the band to perform with him at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich.

In November 2002, Ousseni Coulibaly passed away in Geneva, after a long disease. His great loss severely affected the band, and particularly his twin brother, Lassina. Deeply saddened, they went back to Burkina Faso, bringing with them their deceased brother, to burry him in his home land.


Anka-Dia (1993)

Séniwè ‎(Trace, 2000)