Filed under: Upper Volta
Many of the records that finally find their way into my hands, have had a hard life. I would guess that at least a quarter of the records posted on the site are unplayable. They have scratches. They skip. Scuffs and cracks. Some even have pieces of the record that are missing. But with the use of various computer and turntable tricks, I can usually bring a track back from the dead. Usually…
Finding pristine copies of these records are practically impossible. Yeah, maybe if I travelled to these countries and was really really lucky. Don’t get me wrong, if I could I certainly would. I just don’t have that kind of budget. So due to the scarcity, I’ve learn to live with what I can get. Because, even if the record is beat – I still just want to hear it. I want to know what sounds are contained in that spiral groove.
Now… This record is near pristine – at least, to the naked eye. But, as you probably have already noticed, the audio track tells quite a different story. This record was not damaged by a previous owner or injured in transit. It was just pressed wrong. And the sonic surgery needed to bring this one back from the dead is beyond my expertise. Well, it’s not completely dead. But to EQ the particular frequency where the noise is, would also take out the guitar… Luckily, the noise fades out about two thirds in – just before the guitar solo.
Filed under: Upper Volta
So I finally get back around to doing a post on Upper Volta, or as it now known – Burkina Faso, and I’ve been beaten to the punch! Matthew LaVoie’s African Music Treasures blog over at the Voice of America’s website has an amazing post of music from Burkina Faso. There, not only will you find the single above, but another single by L’Harmonie Voltaïque, as well as two songs by Volta Jazz.
Here’s what LaVoie has to say about L’Harmonie Voltaïque:
Let’s start with L’Harmonie Voltaique, the group that was founded by Antoine Ouedraogo in 1948. They were the first group created to play ‘modern music’ in what was then the French West African colony of Upper-Volta. In early 1948 Antoine Ouedraogo was working for the French colonial administration in Mali (which at the time was called the French Sudan). That spring he returned to Upper-Volta and, tired of having to bring groups from the Cote D’Ivoire whenever he wanted to organize a ‘soiree-dansante’, Antoine decided to create the colony’s first modern orchestra. The group was officially born, with the approval of the Colonial Governor of Upper-Volta, on April 8, 1948. Their early repertoire consisted of French Songs (especially the ballads of French crooner Tino Rossi), and Latin rhythms (for e.g. the Cha-Cha, and Bolero). The repertoire started to change in 1964 when the multi-instrumentalist Maurice Sempore (tenor sax, flute) became the bandleader. It was under his leadership that the group started to perform songs in ‘Moore‘ (the language of the Mossi people).
Although recorded in 1970, these next two tracks give some idea of their earlier repertoire. The first track ‘Killa Naa Naa Ye Killa’ is an instrumental, composed by Maurice Sempore. The group categorizes this song as ‘Jazz’. The title refers to an onomatopoeic phrase in Moore that is taught to children to help them with their pronunciation- the equivalent of ‘sally sells seashells by the seashore’. The B-side of the 45 is a Bolero-Cha-Cha that was also composed by Maurice Sempore. It is the story of Therese Baba, a young woman whose parents were very strict. They did all they could to prevent Therese from going out at night to dance, but even though she never left the house, they could not prevent her from getting pregnant.
Here are the liner notes from the backside of the cover:
Songhoï Records, young African firm, is pleased and proud to present L’Harmonie Voltaïque the orchestra No. 1 of the Republic of Upper Volta.
This popular group that won in 1969 and 1970, twice in succession, the first prize of C. A. L. A. H. V. (Cercle d‘Activités Littéraires et Artistiques de Haute-Volta) is headed by Maurice Sempore.
A versatile musician Maurice Sempore sings, plays tenor saxophone, the guitar, the Cuban flute, trumpet, guitar bass etc. … and his favorite instrument is the tenor sax which he handles with great ease. He is the first composer of modern African music in Upper Volta.
Here is the composition this extraordinary orchestra:
Adama KONE: Saxo Alto
François TAPSOBA: Guitare Solo, Balafon
Luc PACODI: Guitare d‘Accompagnement, Balafon
Henri YONI: Contrebasse
Soungalo KEITA: Tumba, Béndré
Hamidou SIDIBE: Timbas
Henri TAPSOBA: Chanteur
Kader KANAZOE: Chanteur, Kyêma
Dieudonné OUEDRAOGHO: Chanteur
Zass OUOBA: Lounga
Maurice SEMPORE: Chanteur Soliste, Saxo Tenor, Flute.
L’Harmonie Voltaïque was a huge success in countries Council se l’Entente and we hope it will also be adopted by the whole of Africa.
Filed under: Upper Volta
I have not been able to find any information about the band. And at first, I was unable to find anything about the singer and songwriter Compaoré Youssouf (as it is printed on the label). But, I have since found out that his name was actually Compaore Issouf, who released two albums – One with the band The Noble Kings in 1978, and a solo record in 1981. Also, L’Orchestre Afro Soul System recorded another single for the label Société Ivoirienne du Disque in Côte d’Ivoire.
Thanks to Grégoire de Villanova for the information.
If you have any further information, please contact me.
Since this posting, I have been contacted by Olivier Gagneux, who was briefly a member of the band in 1981. Here’s what he had to say:
The leader was singer/composer Jean-Claude “Man” Bamogo, who is pretty famous in Burkina Faso nowadays. The lead guitarist was Roger Mballa from Cameroon, who had been with Fela Kuti & Africa 70 before (under the name of Roger Effiok, because a Nigerian passport had to be ‘organised’ on short notice because of a tour to Italy). He later went on to become musical director of the Ballet National de Maurétanie (a.k.a. Mauritania).
It was a very interesting time because back then the bands with the best equipment (or with equipment, period) was the one with the best gigs. I remember that it took us more than one month to organise a guitar string. The drummer (we called him “Tumbarero”, because Cuban music was very popular back then; Most people actually thought Monguito was from the Côte d’Ivoire) had never seen real drum sticks (he would go out in the bush to cut his own before each gig) and you could not see the original rim on his cymbals.
The top band was “Desi et les Sympatiques” because their leader Desire Traore had a job at OFNACER (Office Nationale Des Cereales) where he would SELL the food donated by international relief agencies and thus made a lot of money. He was also taking guitar lessons from Roger Mballa. I think once Thomas Sankara took charge he did some time for this.
So we ended up playing a lot in little villages. We always had to organise transport (no public transport in the country back then) and a generator for one light bulb above the stage and the PA/amps. The cables did not have any plugs, they were just joined together and a stone was placed on top of it. We would sometimes play until 9 in the morning and some of the musicians would take “speed“.
Half of our repertoire consisted of songs in traditional Mossi rhythms (the rest was Reggae and Cuban Son). One of these rhythms especially (“Waraba“) is tricky to feel the beat, and the kids who had grown up in the city (Ouagadougou) would often dance it the ‘wrong’ way (they did not feel the beat correctly) while the kids in the villages danced it the way it is.