Tag Archives: Burkina Faso

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