Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni BaJama KoOut/Here2013Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba's third album continues the increasingly outward-looking trajectory of its predecessors. The debut, the lovely Segu Blue (Out/Here, 2007), was unadorned roots music. Its follow-up, the more visceral I Speak Fula (Out/Here, 2010), wove amplification into what was still basically an acoustic sound and, on two tracks, featured Vieux Farka Toure, son of Ali Farka Toure, on electric guitar. On Jama Ko--as with his performances as part of the travelling package show Africa Express--Kouyate has taken the process ...read more
Sterns Music's lovingly put-together compilations of work by stars of Francophone West African music's belle époque--the decade and a half accompanying and immediately following the independence years of the 1960s--are now digging further into history with releases featuring more obscure, but just as entrancing, figures from that era. For different reasons, Senegalese singer and songwriter Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane, and Guinean singer, guitarist and ngoni player Sory Kandia Kouyaté, have not been celebrated outside Africa like Mali's Rail Band, Senegal's Orchestra Baobab or Guinea's Bembeya Jazz, Keletigui et ses Tambourinis and Balla et ses Balladins. ...read more
Owiny Sigoma BandOwiny Sigoma BandBrownswood Recordings2011 Along with its close neighbors, Tanzania and Uganda, Kenya--as viewed from Europe or North America--is one of the final frontiers in African music. Indirectly, this is the result of the decades-long, overwhelming impact of Zairean rumba on east Africa, and its fall-out. From the 1960s through the 1980s, Zairean emigré bands dominated the Kenyan scene, discouraging the emergence of indigenous styles; only taarab, the Muslim orchestral music which developed along the Swahili-speaking coast, and benga, the electrified dance music played by Shirati Jazz and other ...read more
Double-albums of classic Congolese and South African recordings demonstrate the right and the wrong ways to go about compilations. Tabu Ley RochereauThe Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2: Congo Classics 1977-1993Sterns2010 From its inception, everything about Sterns' compilation program has been pitch-perfect. Curated by enthusiasts with deep knowledge of their subjects, who assemble collections which balance greatest hits with more obscure material, Sterns' compilations are exemplary. The care with which they are put together respects artists and listeners. Congolese singer and bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau's The Voice Of Lightness ...read more
King Sunny AdeBaba Mo TundeIndigeDisc2010 A leading exponent of Nigerian juju music since the late 1970s, and in 2010 still the most sought after live artist for expatriate Nigerians in Europe and north America, vocalist and guitarist King Sunny Ade once rivalled Afrobeat's Fela Kuti and Zairean rumba's Franco with the frequency of his album releases. Between 1975 and 1984, Ade and his band, the African Beats, released over 40 albums domestically, and by the early 1980s the average sale of each was estimated to be in excess of 200,000 copies (an ...read more
The birth of mbalax in Senegal towards the close of the 1970s, and a 2010 highlife/funk hybrid from south London, show how the embrace of imported styles by African musicians can enrich the continent's music.
Etoile de Dakar featuring Youssou N'Dour Once Upon a Time in Senegal: The Birth of Mbalax 1979-1981 Sterns 2010
Digging into Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour's back catalogue is a fun exercise on two fronts. The recordings he made with the original Etoile de Dakar lineup between 1979-81 are a delight in their own right; and ...read more
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba I Speak Fula Sub Pop! 2010 Much has been made of the symbiosis between traditional Malian and roots North American musics, of which the desert blues" of guitarist Ali Farka Toure (1939-2006) provides convincing evidence. Any remaining doubts about west African savannah-belt culture as a primary source of blues, country and rock'n'roll styles are blown out of the water by I Speak Fula, the truly awesome second album from the ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba ("big ngoni"). Kouyate was a collaborator ...read more
Franco and Le TPOK Jazz Francophonic 2: Africa's Greatest: A Retrospective: Vol.2: 1980 - 1989 Sterns 2009
The Congolese guitarist, singer, bandleader and composer Francois Luambo Makiadi--most commonly known as Franco but with a raft of other nicknames including The Grand Master and The Sorcerer of The Guitar--had by the time of his death in 1989 dominated the elegant but gutsy genre of Congolese rumba for over two decades. Born in 1938, he had been the biggest African music phenomenon of his age.
During his lifetime, Franco had a pan-African ...read more
Amadou & Mariam The Magic Couple Wrasse Records 2009
For most people outside Mali, and maybe France, Amadou & Mariam came out of nowhere in 2005 with Dimanche a Bamako (Nonesuch). But the duo had released three other, Paris-recorded CDs before their Manu Chao-produced breakthrough, which were themselves preceded by a series of cassette-only albums recorded in Cote d'Ivoire. The excellent anthology The Magic Couple cherry picks 76 minutes of beaten gold from the three earlier discs--Sou Ni Tile (Tinder, 1999), recorded in 1997, Tje Ni Mousso (Circular Moves, 2000), recorded in ...read more
Keletigui et ses Tambourinis The Syliphone Years: 1968 - 1976 Sterns 2009
In Memoriam: Keletigui Traore: 26 May 1934 - 11 November 2008
The fourth release in the Sterns label's series anthologising Guinea's tradition-rooted authenticite" bands of the 1960s and 1970s follows close on the death of its illustrious subject. The tenor saxophonist, flautist, organist and vocalist Keletigui Traore, who did much to shape the authenticity movement and who led one its most inventive bands, the Tambourinis, died aged 74 in autumn 2008. Though to say so might suggest a ...read more
Tony Allen Secret Agent World Circuit 2009
It's been a good six months for Afrobeat, the turbulent jazz meets funk meets West African roots music associated with the Nigerian singer Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938 - 1997) and his bands Afrika 70 and Egypt 80. There have been cracking albums from, first, Fela's son Seun, and now Afrika 70 founder member Tony Allen.
When Kuti died, it seemed for a while as though Afrobeat might have died with him, so dominant had his presence been since the style's creation in the ...read more
Rail BandBelle Epoque Vol. 3 - DiobaSterns Africa2009
With Belle Epoque Vol. 3 - Dioba, the estimable Sterns Africa label has completed another definitive archive project documenting West Africa's post-colonial belle epoque" of the 1960s and 1970s. The three two-disc volumes in the series present the hits, highlights and lesser known treasures made by the Rail Band, the era's pre-eminent Malian modern-roots band--which featured world music stars-to-be Salif Keita and Mory Kante, both winningly represented--in a collection that is both as scholarly and as vibrant as the label's The Syliphone Years series, ...read more
Third albums from Guinea's Ba Cissoko and the Kenyan/American collaboration Extra Golden prove, respectively, to be uplifting and just a little disappointing.
Ba Cissoko Seno Sterns Africa 2009
Like the kora played by its eponymous leader, the music made by Ba Cissoko is graceful, rooted in tradition and, much of the time, quietly spoken. It's also forward and outward looking: on Seno, second kora player Sekou Kouyate continues his imaginative exploration of effects pedals, and guest guitarist Abdoulaye Kouyate, who is heard on most tracks, generally favours a fuzzed-up, ...read more
Oumou Sangare Seya World Circuit 2009
Before European-derived concepts of career management became widespread among African recording artists, following the emergence of the world music movement in the late 1980s and 1990s, a musician's stature could be measured by the frequency of the albums he (or, less often, she) released. The Congolese guitarist and bandleader Franco (1938-89) released a staggering 150 albums during a 35 year recording history which began before the local advent of long-playing records. During the 1970s alone, the Nigerian singer and bandleader Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938-97)released around 30 ...read more
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