African music star Youssou N’Dour returns with an ear friendly Afropop album titled History. N’Dour combines pop hooks, easy listening smooth saxophone, English-language R&B, soulful vocal harmonies and West African beats.
History includes tributes to Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji and Senegalese bassist Habib Faye. “Habib Faye was my friend, bassist, and music director for almost twenty years.” N’Dour recollects. “Together we created many songs.”
Osibisa exploded onto the music world in 1971 with a pulsating and vibrant sound. Translated from Ghanaian, Osibisa means “criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness”. Their innovative music style matched the exciting progressive rock scene of the era. Osibisa’s albums featured fantasy artwork by Roger Dean, an artist connected to some of the most iconic progressive rock album covers.
The band’s percussive influence began to manifest itself within the music of their contemporaries. The Osibisa poly-rhythms and percussive breaks were to be an integral feature of the disco boom that was to follow in the late 1970s. Their unique fusion of Africa, Caribbean, rock, jazz, Latin and R&B paved the way for other potent music force such as Bob Marley and the emergence of African music in the 80’s. Indeed, Osibisa are seen by many as the Godfathers of World Music.
One of the important reasons for Osibisa’s enduring success has been their highly energetic and extravagant stage show. However their music is still an influential factor in dance music of today with no fewer than a dozen covers of “Sunshine Day”, which was also used for the Euro 2000 football tournament.
For many years now, they toured tirelessly, headlining numerous festivals and performing in every far-flung comer of the globe. Highlights have included a major tour of India, which resulted in a No 1 Gold Album – an unprecedented achievement for a Western band. The mid 90′ s saw a re-emergence of Osibisa in North America where African and Reggae music are gaining in popularity. The band also had a cameo in the Ken Russell TV film about Cropready Festival in Oxford during this time.
Former President Jerry J Rawlings honored Osibisa in Ghana, where they played a series of concerts celebrating their homecoming. “The enthusiasm shown by the Ghanaian people, especially the youth was quite amazing” recalled Teddy Osei, Osibisa’s bandleader. United Kingdom Europe
Pierre Akendengue, one of the most iconic singer-songwriters of Gabon, released La Couleur de l’Afrique last year. This 4-track EP presents his view of life in different parts of Africa.
Akendengue, who is in his seventies, has a warm voice,
backed by a female chorus, intricate guitar and percussion with a charming mix
of Afropop and traditional rhythms.
The lyrics are in French and his native language, and
express Akendengue’s sentiments about Pan-Africanism and love for Africa. There
is also anger at politicians who cause civil discord, including a song titled
Letter to Laurent Gbagbo, referring to the former Ivorian president who refused
to step down after elections.
On Beats of
Zion, African reggae star Rocky Dawuni continues to demonstrate he’s one of the
most exciting artists coming out of Africa. His style goes beyond traditional roots reggae
by incorporating other genres such as highlife, ear friendly Afropop, seductive
global beats and more.
Highlights include the title track featuring the traditional drums and percussion of Batimbo Percussion Magique of Burundi; the superb timelessly crafted reggae tracks “Champion Arise”, “Freedom Train”, and “Mr. Jones”; hip-shaking highlife song “Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu”; and the recreation of Osibisa classic “Sunshine Day” featuring Ghanaian Afropop singer Wiyaala.
Zion is an exceptionally
expressive, upbeat album
of heartfelt reggae intertwined with fascinating Pan-African music.
Buika (pronounced BWEE-kah) was born Concha Buika on the Spanish island of Mallorca, to parents who arrived to Spain as political exiles from Equatorial Guinea. They lived in the island’s capital city, Palma de Mallorca, where, Buika remembers, the only black resident other than her family members was a man hired to stand in the doorway of a gift shop, like just another novelty on display.
She was a skinny girl with an afro hair style that curious neighbors would reach out to touch — hair which she later learned to style from photos of her early musical idols Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. Her father, a writer and activist, left the family and returned to Guinea, and her mother raised Buika and her five siblings in a household “filled with people, food and music.” She grew up singing and playing instruments – guitar, piano, bass. She has recently taken up cello.
“I am African and an African does not have musical training,”she explains. “An African can’t live without music. When my grandmother was upset with someone and so mad she couldn’t speak, she would sing what she wanted to say to them instead. My first memories are of hearing music playing. Like meals, music was part of our daily life. There has always been music in my head and in my heart.”
Buika also found a second home among the community of Gypsy families who had settled in Palma. She played after school in that marginal neighborhood, and as always, music was a part of those long childhood afternoons, which are echoed today in Buika’s instinctive embrace of flamenco’s emotional deep song, and the copla. But as much as she is currently identified with the copla, and credited with reinventing that classic romantic Spanish style, Buika herself refuses to define music by genre or style. She considers all artists and all kinds of music to be “a gift from God,” but allows that she’s most drawn to music, borne on society’s fringes, that expresses her own desire to tell it like it is.
“It’s not just about music, it’s a way of life,” she says. “It’s about not running away from yourself. Some people sing about what they would like to happen, but in the copla and el cante [flamenco song], we confront who we are, with all of our fears and all of our defects. In the United States there’s also a great tradition like this: it’s called the blues.”
When she was seventeen, Buika’s aunt recommended her for a job singing R&B in a hotel in Mallorca. Not ever having considered singing professionally, the teenager said no, but relented when she learned the gig paid more than she could make doing other jobs available to her. “Since I got on that stage I’ve never stopped working,” she says now.
Buika soon took off to the see the world. She spent some time in London, and in 2001 the singer ended up in Las Vegas, where she worked in casinos as a Tina Turner impersonator, with the requisite wig and platform shoes. She later divided her time between Mallorca and Madrid, where she found soulmates in a community of artists “more interested in the show than in the business.”
“Not all artists want to see ourselves as just sexy girls, some of us want to communicate what we have inside and practice our art,” Buika says. “I look for music that helps us live and that feels good. I want to keep giving love and passion to my music and my audience.”
In 2015, Buika released her eighth album, Vivir Sin Miedo, with vocals in English, Spanish and a mix of the two languages. Vivir Sin Miedo was recorded over four months in Miami, New York, London and Madrid, and features various guests, including Me’shell Ndegeocello and Jason Mraz.
Buiika currently lives in Miami, United States.
In 2019 she collaborated with rock star Carlos Santana. They recorded the album Africa Speaks.
Mestizüo, with Jacob Sureda (Blau, 2000) Buika (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2005) Mi Niña Lola (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2006) Niña de Fuego (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2008) El Último Trago, with Chucho Valdés (DRO Atlantic/Warner Music Spain, 2009) En Mi Piel, compilation (Warner Music Spain, 2011) La Noche Más Larga (Warner Music Spain, 2013) Vivir Sin Miedo (DRO EastWest/Warner Music Spain, 2015) Para mí (Warner Music Spain, 2017) Africa Speaks, with Santana (Concord Records, 2019)
Rokia Traore was born in 1974 and comes from Bamako. Though-steeped in tradition, Rokia Traore’s music is thoroughly integrated into a contemporary sound, thanks to her upbringing in a multicultural environment. Unlike many other Malian singers she does not come from the jali caste, but rather from the class sponsoring them.
Her father was a diplomat, and so she lived in many different places away from Mali: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France, and Belgium. As a result, Rokia Traore has managed to integrate the atmospheres of great many places into her recordings. She grew up listening to all types of music, Algerian and Malian music, jazz, blues, reggae and afropop, and her original career choice was social sciences. Yet once she decided to become an artist instead, the great guitarist, singer and sound engineer Ali Farka Toure, who encouraged and recorded many of the upcoming, independent, and innovative Malian performers, became her mentor.
Another big influence is Massembou Diallo. He used to play with Rokia’s father in an amateur band called Chiwa Band. He encouraged her to make music and composed Rokia’s first two pieces together with her.
Rokia was the winner of the African Discoveries award.
A master of West African rhythms and credited as one of the founders of the Afropop genre, Salif Keita is world renowned for his unforgettable live performances, soaring vocals and his emotionally-fueled songs.
Born in Mali, West Africa in 1949, Salif Keita comes from a noble family, and is a descendant of Sunjata Keita, who founded the Mali Empire in 1240. Salif Keita was the third of thirteen children born to Sina Keita, a landowner in the village of Djoliba, where he grew up, near Mali’s capital, Bamako.
Born albino in a land of blistering sun and heat, with limited eyesight and poor despite his social standing, his mother had to hide him to avoid the attacks of the superstitious crowds who called for his death. In addition to the problems of growing up as an albino, Keita found the opposition of his family to his interest in becoming a singer since the traditions of his ancestry excluded members of the nobility from becoming singers. Keita’s decision to become a musician broke an important taboo as in Mali as only the lower jeli class made its living from music.
In 1970, at the age of 18, Salif Keita left Djoliba for Bamako, where he spent time as a street musician and playing in bars. The first group that he worked with was the legendary Super Rail Band, a state-supported ensemble that was based at a Bamako railway station hotel, and served as an important launching pad for the careers of numerous West African musicians, including kora player and singer Mory Kante, and guitarist Kante Manfila.
In 1973, Salif Keita left the Rail Band, and with guitarist Kante Manfila he joined Les Ambassadeurs, which later became Les Ambassadeurs International. The new group developed the fusion between traditional music and western electric influences. 1977 saw Salif Keita being awarded the National Order of Guinea by Sekou Toure, the Guinean President. By that time, Salif Keita had also discovered American singers like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Tina Turner. Their powerful way of singing and presence on stage taught Keita a lot about live performances.
Restricted by the limited opportunities and political climate in Mali, the group moved south and set up base in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, where they performed and recorded successfully during the late 1970s. The epic 12 minute track “Mandjou”, that is featured on the Mansa of Mali album, was recorded live in Abidjan during this period.
In 1984 Les Ambassadeurs Internationales broke up, and Salif Keita moved to Paris, launching a career that saw him recording the classic Soro album in 1987, produced by Ibrahim Sylla.
A recording deal with Island Records followed, which resulted in the release of the album Ko-Yan in 1989, an album influenced by influential jazz fusion band Weather Report, and that led directly to Salif’s collaboration with Weather Report keyboardist, composer and arranger Joe Zawinul in 1990. With help from Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and a number of carefully picked musicians from Mali and France, Zawinul produced Amen, the album that made Salif the first African band leader to win a Grammy nomination.
The impressive Mansa of Mali retrospective was released in 1993 to coincide with Salif Keita’s tours of the United States, and Southern Africa. Recorded in Paris, New York and Bamako, his album, Papa, features special guests Vernon Reid (Living Color), Grace Jones and John Medeski, an album of the new African/American music, bringing together musicians from Mali and America.
On his 2002 album, Moffou, Salif Keita was joined by excellent musicians, including Cape Verdian diva Cesaria Evora on the track Yamore, guitar-hero Djeli Moussa Kouyaté from Guinea, and his old freind Kanté Manfila (acoustic guitar), both of them long-time companions of Salif.
Moffou is both the title of the album and the name of of the club that the singer opened in Bamako in 2002 to promote the West African music scene. In both cases, the choice of the name expresses his genuine desire to return to the roots of Mali.
In April of 2004, Decca/Universal Music released Remixes from Moffou. The album expanded on the original recording of Moffou that took him on a tour around the world. He collaborated with some of the world’s finest producers and DJs, each bringing a unique contribution to the music, changing its tempo and atmosphere. A sound with a whole new dimension, the disc has traces of funk, house and drum-n-bass.Each song on Remixes is transformed – the songs were given a new face without distorting the delicate melodies that were originally written. The idea to remix the entire album was spawned from the feedback that was given from young music fans. They rushed out to buy “Yamore” (Keita’s duet with Cesaria Evora) and club kids went crazy for Marin Solveig’s remix of “Madan.” European FM radio stations also took notice of the remix which prompted Universal France to take a step further.
Patrick Votan, artistic director at Universal Jazz France explained, “Following the success of “Madan” we decided to ask electro artists who are close to the African scene such as Osunlade, Doctor L and Frederic Galliano to work on remixes of other tracks from the album. We also got major mainstream electro stars such as La Funk Mob (the defunct duo of Cassius Philippe Zdar and Boombass who got back together for the project), Charles Webster and Luciano on board the project in the hope that this would take the work of Salif Keita, a unique and original artist, to the ears of a new public.”
On M’Bemba (2006), the traditional instruments such as the ngoni lute played by Mama Sissoko, and the kora played by Toumani Diabate, evoke the memory of Salif Keita’s own ancestor, Sundiata Keita, the warrior king who founded the Manding Empire in the 13th century. Representing a genuine piece of family history, the new recording was the first time Salif’s foster-sisters joined him on record for the chorus of the title track. Also appearing on the album was dancehall/reggae great, Buju Banton, who lent his talents on the upbeat track “Ladji.”
The same talented group of musicians who performed on Moffou also joined Salif on M’Bemba, including Djeli Moussa Kouyate on guitar, Mino Cinellu on percussion, Salif’s early mentor, guitarist and arranger, Kante Manfila with Ousmane Kouyate also on guitar.
Keita aims to spread his message of hope through his music, through his actions, and through his words. “Happiness isn’t for tomorrow,” Keita said. “It’s not hypothetical; it starts here and now. . . . Nature has given us extraordinary things. . . . Let’s take advantage of the wonders of this continent at last – intelligently, in our own way, at our own rhythm, like responsible men proud of their inheritance. “Let’s build the country of our children, and stop taking pity on ourselves. Africa is also the joy of living, optimism, beauty, elegance, grace, poetry, softness, the sun and nature. Let’s be happy to its sons, and fight to build our happiness.”
Dans L’Authenticité Vol.1, with Kante Manfila (Badmos, 1979)
Dans l’Authenticité Vol. 2, with Kante Manfila (Badmos, 1979)
Tounkan (Celluloid, 1981)
Salif Keita & Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux (Badmos International Records, 1981)
Mandjou (Celluloid, 1984) Soro (Mango, 1987)
Salif Keita & Mory Kante (Syllart Records, 1988) Ko-Yan (Mango, 1989) Amen (Mango, 1991) L’Enfant Lion, soundtrack (Mango, 1993) Folon…The Past (Mango, 1995)
Sosie (MS Verdenshjørnet, 1996)
Seydou Bathily (Sonodisc, 1997) Papa (Metro Blue, 1999) Moffou (Universal Music Jazz France, 2002)
The Lost Album Inédits (Cantos, 2005) M’Bemba (Universal Music Jazz France, 2005) La Différence (Universal Music France, 2009) Talé (Universal Music France, 2012) Un Autre Blanc (Naive, 2018)
During the 1960s, in Bamako, Mali, a young girl of six used to appear at local festivals by popular demand. On the other side of the tracks, three blocks away, a ten year old boy played the tam-tam, the flute and harmonica like a virtuoso. Neither knew the other existed. They never saw each other, yet years later they married, had children, and invented their own unique and beautiful music. Some paths are chosen by destiny, and this is definitely one of them. The road of a duo, and a couple: Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia, the blind couple of Mali.
At the age of 14, Amadou joined the National Orchestra B, where he learned to sing and took up the guitar, playing in the orchestras of Niarela, Koutiala, and Sikasso. Amadou wasn’t born blind, but at a very early age a cataract forced him to enter the Institute for the Young Blind. No doubt it was to meet Mariam, the little girl now grown, a singer-songwriter whose strong voice and unique stage presence had made her the treasure of the institute and already acclaimed by the public thanks to her song, “Qu’ ai-je fait á Dieu pour mériter cela?”(“What did I do to God to deserve this?”) From the moment they met, it was like the song says, “Whatever the path, we’ll hold hands.” But their difficulties started at the same time- their families were worried, and it wasn’t easy to accept this union between the two physically impaired artists: “Life is a combat, and we are its combatants”.
United by their passion for music, they moved forward. Amadou played with Manfila Kanté and Salif Keita in the legendary group called the Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, appearing in Paris (France), Lagos (Nigeria), and the Ivory Coast. Six years later, after playing together both in the orchestra and at the Institute, which Amadou now managed, they began to suffer from the absence of professional music structure in Mali, and so thy left.
The Ivory Coast welcomed and acclaimed them. The couple produced their first five albums there between 1988 and 1993. The adventure was a success, and pirate recordings didn’t prevent them from earning a living through their music. Famous and recognized, they returned to the arid soil of Mali, from which they extracted the unique boogie that molded their style. With subtle and syncopated rhythms that evoke streams flowing over stones, with light guitar riffs conjuring wood drying under the noon sun, and with high-pitched voices exclaiming the blues, Amadou and Mariam weave melodies that make the head spin. The lyrics, in Bambara, Prul, Dogon, and French, come in through an easily opened door to portray the day-to-day existence of universal, timeless man, one which even non-African people can identify with. Amadou and Mariam sing of a world they have never seen, but through their ‘vision’, the real world appears before our eyes as if born out of a sixth sense.
The duo has become one of the leading world music attractions in France, capturing the attention of popular performer and producer Manu Chao, who produced and appeared on their album Dimanche a Bamako (Sunday in Bamako). This disc was a gold record in France, where it was released in 2005.
Le Couple Aveugle Du Mali Vol.1 (Maikano, 1989)
Le Couple Aveugle Du Mali Vol. 2 (Maikano, 1990)
Le Couple Aveugle du Mali Vol. 3 (Maikano, 1992)
Sou Ni Tilé (EmArcy, 1998)
Tje Ni Mousso (Polydor, 1999)
Wati (Universal Music Jazz France, 2002) Dimanche À Bamako (Because Music, 2004)
Paris – Bamako (Because Music, 2005)
Se Te Djon Ye (Sonodisc, 2005) Welcome To Mali (Because Music, 2008)
Remixes (Because Music, 2010) Folila (Because Music, 2012) La Confusion (Because Music, 2017)
Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba – Routes (Twelve Eight Records, 2018)
Routes is the new album by North Carolina-based Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba. Diali Cissokho is a Senegalese kora maestro who moved to Pittsboro a few years ago and formed a band with American musicians.
This new recording has deep Senegalese and North Carolinian roots. Diali Cissokho traveled with his American bandmates to his birthplace, M’bour to record an album together. The band’s bassist and producer Jonathan Henderson and engineer Jason Richmond setup a mobile unit in a hotel near the ocean and invited local musicians.
After the sessions in Senegal, the producer added North Carolina musicians to the tracks. Guests included renowned violinist Jennifer Curtis, North Carolina Heritage Award-winning mandolinist Tony Williamson, jazz and gospel vocalists Shana Tucker and Tamisha Waden, and the excellent pedal steel guitar player Eric Heywood.
The final result was Route, an eclectic and deeply satisfying album that features a mix of traditional jali (griot) kora, Afropop, Senegalese salsa and American gospel, jazz and North Carolina roots music.
Mwinda is the fourth studio album by Angolan singer-songwriter and likembe (thumb piano) player Lulendo Mvulu. Most of the album is radio friendly likembe-fueled Afropop although he also treats the listener to rootsier sounds.
Highlights include the engaging title track “Mwinda,” where Nigerian Afrobeat, led by pioneering drummer Tony Allen, meets Angolan vocals and fascinating likembe. Equally good is “Africa Meu Amor,” another Afropop-infused track featuring Tony Allen once more and the prominent sound of the likembe.