Cameroonian bassist and singer-songwriter Richard Bona has a new album titled Heritage, scheduled for release on September 16 in the United States. To promote the album he will be touring the United States in September 2016.
Heritage, Bona’s eighth, is the first with the Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano. This recording follows the roots of Afro-Cuban music back to its origins in the Mandekan Empire of the 15th century and earlier. The music explores the alchemy of African rhythms in Cuba.
Njacko Backo is a percussionist and singer. He was born in 1958 in the hillside village of Bazu, Cameroon. After studying under his village elders for many years, Njacko Backo left his life and family in Bazu at the age of sixteen, in order to investigate the world beyond. He traveled through over 15 African countries, learning, playing and performing with musicians from the diaspora. He arrived in Amsterdam, ten years later, and it was there that he began to record the sounds he had gleaned from his diverse experiences in Africa.
Njacko put two albums to press during a four-year stint in Holland. He recorded an album entitled Le Destin, as well as a 45” single called Bamileke Reggae, at Amsterdam’s Weekland Studios. These recordings gave him the inspiration and the desire to seek out North American possibilities.
In 1989, Njacko arrived in Montreal, where he collaborated with Canadian and Afro-Canadian artists. In 1992, he recorded Aventure au Desert with his group, Kalimba! Kalimba! In 1996, he released his first CD titled “Nkoni,” followed by the newly released compilation CD, Resurrection, which came out in November 1998. All of his Montreal recordings were produced in Morris Appelbaum’s Silent Sound Studios. Njacko lived in Montreal for a few years and then he moved to Toronto with his family.
Njacko Backo is one of the rare Kalimba players in the western world. Poet, writer, composer, performer and accomplished choreographer, Njacko Backo makes his own instruments, including the Kalimba, the Zaa Koua (African harp) as well as a wide variety of drums and small percussion instruments.
Emmanuel Dibango N’Djoké was born on December 12 of 1933 in Duala, Cameroon. Manu Dibango arrived to Europe as a young student. With his extraordinary musical talent and burgeoning love of jazz, the young Manu soon opted for a life devoted to adventure for the musical kind.
With jazz blaring in its every nook and cranny, Paris was the perfect place for Manu to mix, mingle, listen and learn. Manu was introduced to the music of Armstrong, Ellington, Young and Parker and all the multifaceted life of the Parisian jazz-scene.
His first stay in the French capital turned out to be relatively brief. It was a time when African nations were being born, either violently or more or less peacefully and words like “independence” and “afro centricity” were common currency.
The great Kabasele invited Manu to join his band, the African Jazz, to play Congolese music. The invitation was accepted and Manu returned to Africa. A love of jazz on the one hand and traditional African music on the other prompted Manu to experiment by combining various different styles of music to create his own unique blend.
With his inherent curiosity and sensitivity Manu has always been interested in widely divergent and different styles of music. A cursory listen to his output bears this out: jazz, reggae, rap… all these and more are in full effect.
In 1972 Manu scored his first international hit with the million selling “Soul Makossa”, which fared particularly well in the United States of America where it helped to create considerable awareness of African music and break down some prevailing musical prejudices.
Manu discovered a secret pleasure in going against the grain of entrenched ideas about musical purism and traditionalism. His purpose was and still is to build bridges between the continents.
Manu was the fist-mover in what became a deep-rooted relationship between the music of francophone Africa and Paris. He has recorded and released numerous albums. Today, as well as touring in the world, he spends considerable time supporting and encouraging young musicians and fighting humanitarian causes.
Soul Makossa (Fiesta Records, 1972)
O Boso (London/PolyGram Records, 1973)
Makossa Man (Atlantic Records, 1974)
Makossa Music (Creole Records, 1975)
Manu 76 (Decca Records, 1976)
Super Kumba (Decca Records, 1976)
The World of Manu Dibango (Decca Records, 1976)
Ceddo O.S.T (Fiesta Records, 1977)
A l’Olympia (Fiesta Records, 1978)
Afrovision (Mango/Island Records, 1978) Sun Explosion (Decca Records, 1978) Gone Clear (Mango/Island Records, 1980)
Ambassador (Mango/Island Records, 1981)
Waka Juju (Polydor/PolyGram Records, 1982)
Mboa (Sonodisc/Afrovision, 1982) Electric Africa (Celluloid, 1985) Afrijazzy (Soul Paris, 1986)
Deliverance (Afro Rhythmes, 1989)
Happy Feeling (Stern’s Music, 1989)
Rasta Souvenir (Disque Esperance, 1989) Polysonik (1992)
Live ’91 (Stern’s Music, 1994) Wakafrika (Giant/Warner Bros. Records, 1994)
Lamastabastani (Soul Paris, 1994)
Bao Bao (Movieplay, 1996)
African Soul – The Very Best Of (Mercury, 1997)
CubAfrica, with Eliades Ochoa (Corason Records, 1998)
Africavision, Vol. 3: The Cinema of Manu Dibango (Buda Musique, 2003)
The Rough Guide to Manu Dibango (World Music Network, 2004) African Woodoo (2008)
Afro Funk (2010) Afro Soul Machine (2011)
Past Present Future (2011)
Ballad Emotion (2011)
Africa Boogie (2013)
Aloko Party (2013)
Lagos Go Slow (2013)
Balade En Saxo (2013)
Born in 1974, singer, songwriter, guitarist and percussionist Blick Bassy grew up with 20 siblings in Cameroon’s capital Yaunde, a city where people from all parts of the country come together, and the first languages are French and English. Bassy says: “People in Yaunde lose their traditions and culture rapidly because they don’t speak in their mother tongues with each other or their children. My family is part of the Bassa ethnic group, a nomad tribe that originally comes from Egypt and has descendants down in South Africa. But nowadays people stay in one place because they need visas to cross borders. The word ‘bassa’ means ‘people from the earth’.”
Aged 10, Bassy was sent to live with his grandparents for two years in Mintaba, a small village situated in the center of Cameroon. His grandparents initiated Bassy into traditional customs and culture, training him in a variety of tasks, such as hunting, fishing and agriculture. He was also educated in their musical traditions.
In Mintaba, daily life is accompanied by music and it was there that Blick discovered the Bolobo (chant for fishing), the Dingoma (chant and percussion for the inauguration of Mbombock chiefs), the Bekele (chant and percussion for weddings), the Hongo (chant for funerals) and the Assiko (guitar percussion, chant and dance). “In Mintaba, people don’t talk much but they sing a lot during their daily tasks. It’s in the singing that they express their emotions and show their souls. My mother used to sing from morning till night. She’s the one who fired my musical aspirations and taught me how to sing. Back at my parents’ home, I started listening to Marvin Gaye, Gilberto Gil and Nat King Cole. I realized I wanted to blend the beauty of my Bassa culture and its musical traditions with other music that inspired me and create my own soulful sound.”
Blick Bassy started his first band, Jazz Crew, when he was 17. Playing a fusion of African melodies, jazz and bossa nova, Jazz Crew quickly became the most sought-after group in the city. In 1996, he formed a new band called Macase. During almost 10 fruitful years Macase released two acclaimed albums, Etam (1999) and Doulou (2003), as well as picking up various regional and international awards, including the RFI Prize for World Music (2001), Best Group by MASA (2001), Best New African Group by the KORA Awards (2003) and the CICIBA Prize (2003).
Then in 2005, Bassy decided to leave Macase and he moved to Paris where he started working with Manu Dibango, Cheikh Tidiane Seck, Lokua Kanza and Etienne Mbappé. A few years later he signed to the World Connection label and he finally got to do work on his solo album, Léman.
About the album he says: “I’ve been creating and carrying some of these songs around in my head for the past five years. Every detail is a part of me. It feels great to have been able to record them now and share them on stage. The song ‘Bolo’, for instance, is about having to leave your country and missing it. Lots of Africans have to move away from their hometowns to make a living. I’m the perfect example. But I also enjoy my travels to other places because I’m always looking for musical encounters. One of my trips took me to Mali and other West African countries. The Malian griot music is very present in the instrumentation (kora, ngoni), harmonies and melodies of this album.”
Léman was recorded in Salif Keita’s studio in Bamako, Mali, and in Bassy’s current hometown of Paris, and co-produced by Jean Lamoot (known for his work with Souad Massi, Salif Keita, Nneka and Kasse Mady Diabaté) and Jean-Louis Solans.
Blick continues, “Musically it’s interesting to use Bassa. Its specific intonation determines the melody. When I sing in Bassa, I make use of the proverbs in which the Bassa express themselves. They often have a literal sense but also a deeper meaning which you will only understand when you are initiated. For example, in the song ‘Masse’ I talk about ‘the owl that scratched my forehead’ which means as much as you’ve been struck by misfortune. But it won’t get me down because I feel I’m well protected by my forefathers!”
Etam, with Macase (1999)
Doulou, with Macase (2003) Léman (World Connection, 2009) Ako (2015)
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