Filed under: Guinea
In Guinea, President Ahmed Sékou Touré‘s effort to be rid of all things French produced an amazing roster of A-list talent. The bands cranked out a mix of Manding agit-prop infused with Cuban rhythms and popular Congolese rumba. It was a union blessed by Toure and his political pal Fidel Castro.
The French turned Guinea into one of their most lucrative colonies, establishing a head tax to force Guineans to farm peanuts, fruit and coffee and to harvest rubber, an important resource for France up until the 1920s. Resentment against the French was especially strong in Guinea following the colonial era. Guinea became independent in 1958, the first African nation to do so. A former labor leader and the mayor of the capital, Conakry, Sekou Touré became the president, and under his leadership, the nation voted overwhelmingly not to participate in Charles de Gaulle‘s Franco-African confederation. The price for this act of defiance was high as France retaliated by cutting off aid and support and recalling technical workers. Touré pursued a policy of “positive neutralism” during the Cold War, but with France leading the chorus of nations condemning Touré as a communist, most of his help came from the Eastern Bloc.
Soon after Guinea’s independence, the 25-piece National Orchestra had so many members that they decided to spilt into two bands: l’Orchestre de la Paillote under the direction of Kélétigui Traoré, played in the La Paillote nightclub, and l’Orchestre Jardin de Guinée under the direction of Balla Onivogui, playing in Le Jardin de Guinée. Later the bands were renamed, becoming Kélétigui et ses Tambourins and Balla et ses Balladins.
Manfila Kanté Dabadou, who was the lead singer of Kélétigui et ses Tambourins came from a very musical family. His cousin Soba Manfila Kanté played guitar in Balla et ses Balladin, and two more cousins, Kanté Manfila and Salif Keita, played in the Rail Band from Bamako in neighboring Mali.
Catalog number SLP 45 on Editions Syliphone Conakry of Guinea, released 1974.