Filed under: Mali
In the aftermath of General Moussa Traoré‘s military coup of the Malian government in 1968, state funding for the arts, theater troupes and musical groups disappeared. In an attempt to fill the void, the Malian Railway Company decided to sponsor a group that would be the house band at the Buffet Bar at the Station Hotel in the town of Bamako. A trumpet playing Griot named Tidiane Koné was recruited to organize the group, which was called Super Rail Band of the Buffet Hotel de la Gare Bamako – or more simply known as Rail Band.
The band, which first formed in 1970, started off as a Jazz band that was also heavily influenced by Afro-Cuban rhythms. Eventually, the group integrated local Manding musical styles and traditions, with vocals in the Bambara language. From the beginning, the band featured electric guitar, organ, horn section and a drum kit along side more traditional instruments like kora, balafon, Ngoni and talking drum with Islamic-style, Mande hunter co-fraternity song, and Griot praise-singing vocals.
In the band’s first ten years, two of Mali’s best known vocalists – Salif Keita and Mory Kanté – had fronted the group. Keita left the band in 1972 to form Les Ambassadeurs Du Motel. The two bands had a fierce rivalry and would compete in “battle of the bands” concerts. This only fueled each band’s creativity even further.
Rail Band is still active to this day, continuing to record and tour around the world. Their latest album Kongo Sigui was released on the now defunct Indigo label in 2003. Many of their earlier recordings have been reissued on Sterns Music.
Filed under: Mali
Record collectors are a nefarious bunch. It’s a moniker that I have generally shied away from, preferring music nerd. I am no vinyl purist. The only reason that I have return to the vinyl wonderland is that was the only way to find what I was looking for – which was something that was not available anywhere else. And I will admit that vinyl does sound the better than any of the other options – that is, if the vinyl is in good shape. But since I do not have to resources to travel the world scouring flea markets from Tokyo to Timbuktu, I have to rely on record dealers…
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some honorable dealers out there. In fact, the person who sold me this record has been known to throw an extra record or two in with my orders. But more than a few records have fallen short of their description. This record was listed as Very Good Plus, which is: “Cover suffers from folding, scuffing of edges, spine splits, discoloration… Now the signs of age and handling are starting to show. You can notice some clear wear on the surface, there is some noise (pops and crackles) but no skips or major warps”. Here’s the criteria of what classifies as Bad: “The cover and contents are badly damaged or partly missing. Cover can also be missing. The record does not play properly due to scratches, bad surface noise, etc… Unless it is something very rare it is not worth listing in this condition”. And there’s the catch – this record is rare. And due to the scarcity of the records like this one, I have learned to live with some fairly noisy recordings.
As for Tentemba Jazz du Mali, I do know that the band consisted of members Sékou Kanté - who later joined the Rail Band – Ousmane Diabaté and Amadou Touré. They released two albums in 1977 and one more in 1978. As far as I know, this was the second of only two singles that the band recorded.
If you have any information, please contact me.
Catalog number B B 229 on Badmos Records of Côte d’Ivoire, released 1977.
Filed under: Mali
Much like the country itself, the music of Mali is very expansive. Most of the country’s 479,000 square miles lies in the southern Sahara. So there’s lots of space to wander and get lost. This geography has influenced the Mandé people who make up most of the country’s population, and their musicians, professional performers known as griots. Over the years, other influences have been incorporated to produce a uncommon sonic blend specific to this unique landscape.
At the end of World War II, the guitar become common throughout Africa, partially resulting from the intermingling of African, American and British soldiers. Dance bands soon became popular in Mali, especially the town of Kita‘s orchestra led by Boureima Keita and Afro-Jazz de S´gou. Imported European dances were popular, especially rumbas, waltzes and Argentine-derived tangos. But by the 1960s, the influence of Cuban music began to rise – and has remained popular to this day.
After independence in 1960, Malians saw new opportunities for cultural expression in the burgeoning media of radio, television and recorded music. Under President Modibo Keita, orchestras were state-supported, including the first electric dance band, Orchestre Nationale A, as well as the Ensemble Instrumental National, comprising 40 traditional musicians from around the country and still in operation today. Other influential dance bands included Rail Band du Buffet Hôtel de la Gare and Pioneer Jazz.
Le Kéné-Star De Sikasso were, as you might have guessed, from the southern most region of Mali known as Sikasso. They originally started out as Orchestre Regional de Sikasso, and released two albums, the first one in 1968 on Republic du Mali Radiodiffusion Nationale, and the second in 1970 on Bärenreiter-Musicaphon. They also were included on a 1973 compilation called Panorama du Mali on Mali Music.
The album that is posted here, their only release credited as Le Kéné-Star De Sikasso, was later re-issued on cassette in the Eighties, and was entitled Lala. The members of the band for this recording were François Ballo, Cheick Sabibou Diabaté, Mamadou Diakité and Mamadou Touré among others who are uncredited, and was produced by Boubakar Traoré. Also, the first song on this record, “Hodi Hu Yenyan”, as well as the two songs from the Panorama du Mali compilation – along with songs by Orchestre Régional de Kayes and Super Djata Band – were included on the Mali 70 – Electric Revolution compilation released by Discograph / Syllart Productions.
Catalog number KO 77.04.16 on Mali Kunkan, released 1977.
Filed under: Mali
Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. In the late 1800s, Mali fell under French control, becoming part of French Sudan. Mali gained independence in 1959 with Senegal, as the Mali Federation in 1959. A year later, the Mali Federation became the independent nation of Mali in 1960. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.
With the coming to power of Mali’s second president, Moussa Traoré, however, Cuban music was discouraged in favor of Malian traditional music. Biennale festivals were held to encourage folk music. Old dance bands reformed in many cases, under new names, as part of this roots revival. Especially influential bands included Tidiane Koné‘s Rail Band du Buffet Hôtel de la Gare, which launched the careers of future stars Salif Keita and Mory Kanté.
Not all bands took part in Traoré’s roots revival, however. Les Ambassadeurs du Motel formed in 1971, playing popular songs imported from Senegal, Cuba and France. Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band were the two biggest bands in the country, and a fierce rivalry developed. Salif Keita, perhaps the most popular singer of the time, defected from the Rail Band to join Les Ambassadeur in 1972.
In 1974, a “battle of the bands” concert between Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band was held in Bamako to decide who was the most popular group. A concert was organised and both bands were instructed to write a new song for the event. The Ambassadeurs du Motel performed “Kibaru” (which promoted a literacy campaign organized by the national government), and by all accounts the audience went wild. The concert produced no clear winner on the day and it was officially declared a draw. Salif and Kanté Manfila recorded a further two LPs with Les Ambassadeurs du Motel before forming Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux.
Catalog number SAF 50014on Sonafric of France, released 1976.