291

Super Rail Band Of The Buffet Hotel De La Gare De Bamako: Super Rail Band (aka New Dimensions In Rail Culture)

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Despite recent forays onto the North American concert stage under the leadership of guitarist Djelima Dytounkara, the Super Rail Band's seminal role in the development of modern Malian music is today largely forgotten. They may be credited as an early launchpad for the careers of Salif Keita and Mory Kante, but their importance is deeper than that: as the first high-profile Malian band to translate traditional Manding kora and balafon music into a modern urban context, they kick-started the emergence of electric griot music throughout Mali, Guinea and Senegambia.

Formed in 1970, the Super Rail Band was the first group to receive sponsorship from the Malian government, who, keen to nurture local culture, bought most of the band's imported Western instruments and underwrote their wages. Throughout the 1970s the band was resident at the buffet bar of capital city Bamako's Station Hotel, a literal crossroads of West African culture and a fashionable social meeting place as well.

The Super Rail Band was a vital stepping-stone for Keita and Kante, and also for Kante Manfila, originally an acoustic guitarist, who later became a key figure in the development of local electric music. In 1973, Keita and Manfila left to join Les Ambassadeurs in the Cote d'Ivoire, and Kante departed not long after to develop the kora into a modern lead instrument in front of an all-electric band. The age of the electric griot was born.

Recorded in late 1982 and first released in the UK in 1985 as New Dimensions In Rail Culture, this reissue puts a vital piece of the electric griot jigsaw back on the decks. The Manding modern/traditional blend is maturing but is not yet wholly integrated, and its constituent parts—ancient balafon and kora music (with kit drums and electric guitars reinterpreting the traditional instruments' lines), Islamic vocal stylings, Ghanaian dance-band highlife (E.T. Mensah had been massively popular in Mali in the 1960s) and, uniquely in the region at the time, Zairean rumba—are each distinctly audible.

Sekou Kante and Lanfia Diabate may not be as widely celebrated as their predecessors Keita and Kante, but they are A-list effervescent vocalists, fronting an easy-rocking, locked-down band. The horn players (sadly the sleeve has not acquired full personnel details over the years) are straight out of Accra, barely mutated, and Dytounkara's cascading guitar lines vividly evoke traditional kora and n'goni music while adding new electric textures and impact. The feral beauty of rural Manding folk music is perfectly captured during the second half of "Konowale," electric and bass guitars enjoy some prolonged and enthusiastic coupling on "Tallassa," and tumescent, Franco-ish guitar licks enliven "Mali Yo." A great album then, and a great album still.


Track Listing: Foliba; Bediana Mogo; Tallassa; Konowale; Mali Yo.

Personnel: Sekou Kante: lead vocals; Lanfia Diabete: lead vocals; Djelima Dytounkara: guitar; undocumented: saxophones, guitars, keyboards, bass guitar, drums, percussion.

Title: Super Rail Band (aka New Dimensions In Rail Culture) | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: GlobeStyle


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Moment Frozen CD/LP/Track Review Moment Frozen
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Minor Step CD/LP/Track Review Minor Step
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 19, 2017
Read A Meeting Of Spirits CD/LP/Track Review A Meeting Of Spirits
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2017
Read First Light CD/LP/Track Review First Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Mist. Moss. Home." CD/LP/Track Review Mist. Moss. Home.
by Jim Olin
Published: April 10, 2017
Read "Some Great Songs Vol. 2" CD/LP/Track Review Some Great Songs Vol. 2
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 6, 2017
Read "90 Going On Amazing" CD/LP/Track Review 90 Going On Amazing
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read "Out 'N' In" CD/LP/Track Review Out 'N' In
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Resolution" CD/LP/Track Review Resolution
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 15, 2016
Read "Skarkali" CD/LP/Track Review Skarkali
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 26, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.