Tag Archives: Burkina Faso

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)


Modern Songs Rooted in Burkinabe Jeli Tradition

Massa Dembele – Mezana Dounia (Izniz Recordings, 2017)

Mezana Dounia is the first album recorded by jeli (praise singers, social commentators and historians, also known as griots) musician Massa Dembele from Burkina Faso. Dembele is a well-known surname within the jeli community.

Massa Dembele writes songs about embracing diversity within Burkina Faso’s ethnic groups, calls out to put an end to forced marriages of young women, the loss of superficial youth beauty, fear of the modern world, betrayal, the way of the jeli, and Massa’s grandmother Yedini.

Mezana Dounia is an acoustic album that highlights Massa Dembele’s gratifying vocals and the hypnotic kamele ngoni (a West African harp-lute). Massa Dembele recorded the album in Burkina Faso’s capital and played all the instruments, including percussion instruments such as calabash, jembe and bara drums.

Two guests appear on Mezana Dounia, Ali Diara on bala (balaphon) and Mamadou Dao on folikan flute.

The original lyrics in Mande are available in English, translated by Massa Dembele and Sarah Lajoie Flyng Ouédraogo at www.izniz.com/massa-demebele.pdf.

Buy Mezana Dounia


Artist Profiles: Farafina


Farafina was founded in the early eighties in Burkina Faso. Right from the beginning they were enthusiastically welcomed by their audiences who were fascinated by so much virtuosity.

Their ability to expand their music without denying their traditional instruments has enabled them to experience new forms and record with musicians such as Jon Hassell, the Rolling Stones, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Daniel Lanois, Billy Cobham, and Joji Hirota. They played several times at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and for 72,000 listeners at the famous Nelson Mandela’s birthday concert in the London Wembley Stadium.

Their music interweaves complex and forceful rhythms and is carried by the melodic lines of balafons, flute and koras. The songs are played on traditional instruments while their lyrics deal with present issues of African realities in a critical though hopeful way.

But they stayed faithful to their own track. So while integrating new orchestral forms and melodies, and adding contemporary sounds (guitar and keyboard), the balafons, koras, flute, jembes, tama, and baras still remain the core and hearth of their music. Last but not least, the arrival of a female voice introduces a new color to this up till now male only ensemble.

During their odyssey of 30 years the group naturally faced some changes. Thus, its founder Mahama Konaté left the group in 1991. Others came and went and still others died. New and younger musicians have joined the group. All came in through the so called “Farafina School” which continues the African tradition of having the children, from their youngest ages on, attend the concerts of their elders and trying to repeat the music they hear all day long. In this way an astonishing and remarkable musical continuity is guaranteed.

Farafina creates a subtle music that is sensitive and ardent at the same time. It draws your body and mind into discovering not only the African life but a universal life nourished with rhythms leading all the way to the roots of jazz.


Reinvented by encounters with modernity, Manding influences, the music of Burkina Faso’s neighboring countries, the melodies of the people of Mali, Niger and the legends of Kong and the chants and drums of Ghana and Benin, all contribute to the richness of Farafina’s s work.


* Farafina Live At Montreux Jazz Festival (Artways Productions ART 2929, 1985). Produced by Artways.

* Bolomakote (VeraBRA/Intuition 26, 1989)

* Faso Denou (Realworld CDRW 35, 1993), produced by Billy Cobham & Daniel Lanois

* Nemako (Intuition Music INT 3241-2, 1998), produced by Michel Schaer and Thierry van Roy

* Kanou (Intuition Music/L’Empreinte Digitale ED 13134, 2001), produced by Heinz Dill and Thierry van Roy.

Recording Collaborations

* Flash of the Spirit (Intuition Music & Media INT 3009-2, 1988). Produced by Brian Eno & Daniel Lanois. Recorded in New-York after a series of five concerts in Europe together with Jon Hassel
* Beauty (CDVUS 14, 1989) Collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto for the recording of three titles
* Steel Wheels (Rolling Stones Records 4657522, 1989). The Rolling Stones invited Farafina to participate on the recording of the track Continental Drift.


Artist Profiles: Alif Naaba

Alif Naaba
Alif Naaba

Alif Naaba has been steeped in the musical traditions of Burkina Faso, West Africa. His Afropop style combines pulsating polyrhythmic percussion, kora textures, and funky bass and guitar riffs.

His socially conscious lyrics, sung in Mossi and French, tell of the hardships that his country and continent face, while offering a message of hope and positivity for the future.

As a composer, Naaba has participated in the Sundance Institute’s Sundance East Africa, collaborating with playwright Odile Gakire Katese (Rwanda) and choreographer Flora Théfaine (Togo).


Foo (Seydoni, 2011)


Jembe Maestro from Burkina Faso

Adama Dramé : Dakan (Buda Musique CD 4790380, 2016)

Master drummer Adama Dramé, from Burkina Faso, celebrates his 50-year career with Dakan. Dramé is one of the greatest jembe players in West Africa. On Dramé he presents full ensemble modern pieces as well as solo drums.

On the ensemble pieces, Dramé fuels his music with irresistible rhythms featuring additional jembe, tama (talking drums), dunun and bala (wooden xylophone) along with a large number of guests who provide a wide-range of traditional and modern musical instruments.

Highlights include “SNC” (National Culture Week) where there is a delightful interaction between the fiddle, flute and call and response vocals supported by drums and bala.

Another favorite is “Bobo Dioulasso” with excellent guitar work and a Cuban-style trumpet. A meeting of Afro-Cuban and Manding cultures.

Another standout is the fast paced “Zouloubou Zalaba” featuring call and response vocals and trumpet riffs.

The last track, “Djomaya” features a captivating slow groove and very fine guitar.

The lineup on Dakan includes Adama Dramé on jembe and vocals; Awa Kini on backing vocals; Bhotian Dembélé on lead guitar; Lassina Zouon on zin zin; Salifou Dramé on jembe; and Sololomane Djabaté on bala.

Guests include Adjara Cissé on lead and backing vocals; Mamou sylla on lead and backing vocals; Oumar Daou and Bob Lay on backing vocals; Acchille Outtara on guitar; Bakary Konaté on tama and dunun; Boulaye Kini on tama; Clément Janinet on violin; Djakaria Diabaté on flue; Drissa Kini on keyboards; Erwann Bouvier on mandolin; Issouf Kini on dunun; Jack Eslaku on trumpet; Jean-Philippe Rykiel on keyboards; Lamine Soumano on kora and acoustic guitar; Lassina Nébié on bara; Mary Henderson saxophone; and Ray Lema on keyboards.

The extensive CD booklet includes lyrics, photos and liner notes in English and French.

Adama Dramé was born in Nuna (Burkina Faso) in 1954 in a family of jembe players. He directs a renowned ensemble of musicians and dancers called Foliba.

Buy Dakan