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.