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Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab and Guinea’s Authenticite Movement Show Their Roots

Chris May By

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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.

In 2012, not before time, Thiossane and Kouyaté return to the limelight.

Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane

Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane

Sterns Music


Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane's star shone brightly during the belle époque, first with the theatrical troupe Union Artistic du Thiès, later as a singer with Orchestra Baobab. Thiossane was championed by Senegal's president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and his song "Talene Lamp Yi" was adopted as the theme music for radio broadcasts from the consciousness-raising 1st Festival des Arts Nègres, held in Dakar in 1966. Since the mid 1970s, Thiossane has focused on painting. Now 74, Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane, set in Baobab's elegant, classic Afro-Cuban style, is the first album he has released under his own name.

Thiossane is accompanied by a stellar group. Its members include, from Baobab, saxophonist Thierno Kouaté, guitarist Lofti Benjeloun and singers Balla Sidibé and Assane Mboup; Africando singer (and former Baobab member) Medoune Diallo; Xalam founder member, guitarist Cheick Tidiane Tall; former Keletigui et ses Tambourinis guitarist Muctar Wurrie; and Congolese-rumba guitar wizard Papa Noel Nedule Montswet, a former member of OK Jazz and Les Bantous de la Capitale, now playing with Paris-based band Kèkèlè.

Drummers and percussionists are not credited on the sleeve, and neither is the accordionist who is heard to particularly lovely effect on the opening "Aminata Ndiaye" and the remake of "Talene Lamp Yi." Their rewards will come in heaven; our's come now.

Arrangements are credited to François Bréant, whose track record includes such outstanding albums as Salif Keita's Soro (Mango, 1987) and Thione Seck's Orientissimo (Syllart, 2002). He has turned in another classy result with Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane.

Sory Kandia Kouyaté

La Voix de la Révolution

Sterns Music


Were he to be alive in 2012, Sory Kandia Kouyaté would be 79 to Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane's 74. Kouyaté passed in 1977, aged 44. During his lifetime, he was revered in Guinea and a draw elsewhere in Africa. Independent Guinea's first president, Sékou Touré—who initiated the authenticité programme which fostered the development of post-colonial Guinean music—was an admirer, and under his auspices Kouyaté represented Guinea at the UN, across Africa and behind the Iron Curtain.

A link between the Guinean griots of the pre-recording era and present day artists such as singer and kora player Mory Kanté, Kouyaté was schooled in Mande history and music by his father, Djéli Mady Kouyaté, and became a singer at the royal court of Mamou at age 14. He moved to the capital, Conakry, in 1951, at the invitation of Sékou Touré, who employed him to entertain the crowds at his political meetings. Following Guinean independence in 1958, Touré continued to sponsor Kouyaté, making him director of the Ensemble Instrumental et Choral de la Voix de la Révolution in 1961.

There were two symbiotic strands to Kouyaté's music, both represented on the two-disc collection La Voix de la Révolution. On the first disc (1961-73), mostly in new arrangements of traditional songs, he is accompanied on some tracks by keyboardist and saxophonist Keletigui Traoré's band, the Tambourinis, and on others by the Ensemble National Djoliba. On the second disc (1970-71), on tracks made mainly with his own Trio de Musique Traditionelle Africaine, he draws from the same well, accompanying himself on six-string ("white man's") guitar and its cousin, the traditional, four-string koni. The trio also includes balafon player Djéli Sory Kouyaté and kora player Sidikiba Diabaté.

Like Bembeya Jazz, Keletigui et ses Tambourinis and Balla et ses Balladins, Kouyaté confirmed Touré's belief that traditional Guinean music could be recast in modern settings without losing its identity, and his weighty, resonant voice commands attention with the horn-rich Tambourinis as effortlessly as it does with his acoustic trio. Four decades on, these recordings continue to delight.

The 34-page booklet includes around a dozen rarely seen photographs of Kouyaté, in social settings and in performance.

Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane

Tracks: Aminata Ndiaye; Lat Dior; Ndiaye Diatta Ndiaye; Arawane Ndiaye; Siket; Talene Lampe Yi; Thiere Lamboul; Bouki Ndiour; Laye Woyena Laye.

Personnel: Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane: vocals; Cheikhna Ndiaye: guitar; Robert Lahoud: guitar; Cheick Tidiane Tall: guitar; Papa Noel Nedule Montswet: guitar; Muctar Wurrie: guitar; Lofti Benjeloun: guitar; Thierno Kouaté: saxophones; Samba Laobé Ndiaye: bass; Kha Mbaye Madiaga: vocals; Balla Sidibé: vocals; Medoune Diallo: vocals; Doudou Seck: vocals; Assane Mboup: vocals; uncredited: drums, percussion, accordion.

La Voix de la Révolution

Tracks: CD1: N'na; Tara; Mikossaya; Djoliba; Conakry; Fouaba; Minawa; Souaressi; P.D.G.-O.E.R.S.; Hellaya; Touyendé; Namatimbaye; Tinkisso; Sakhodougou. CD2: Douga; Kedo; Massane Cissé; Toubaka; Siiba; Kemé Bourema; Nina; Malisadio; Toutou Diarra.

Personnel: CD1: Sory Kandia Kouyaté: vocals, guitar ngoni; Ensemble National Djoliba; Keletigui et ses Tambourinis. CD2: Sory Kandia Kouyaté: vocals, guitar, ngoni; Djéli Sory Kouyaté: balafon (1-3. 5, 6, 8. 9); Sidikiba Diabaté: kora; Ballets Africains de Keita Fodeba (4, 7).


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