one post a day for the remainder of 2017 featuring a selection of some of my best finds of African music last year…not necessary brand new releases. Mostly vintage original pressings found during my travels all over the world.
#7 Farafina – Bolomakoté
veraBra Records – veraBra No. Germany 1989
Farafina is a group of percussionists / dancers from Burkina Faso in West Africa, founded orginally by Mahama Konaté.
Excellent workouts on traditional African instruments like the balafon and djembé are recorded on this album, one of the standout tracks of ‘Bolomakoté’ is the track “Moroman Wouele”, an amazing rhythm journey with hypnotic chants! The track starts seductively like a North African belly dance morphing gradually into a faster samba rhythm. The latin theme re-appears even stronger on the B-side….dance-floor friendly album for sure.
Farafina’s ability to expand their music without denying their traditional instruments has enabled them to experience new forms and record with musicians such as Jon Hassell, the Rolling Stones, Ryuichi Sakamato, Daniel Lanois, Billy Cobham, Joji Hirota….
In 1988 Farafina worked together with Jon Hassell on an ambient/experimental album ‘Flash Of The Spirit’. The group played several times at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and stole the show at the famous Nelson Mandela’s birthday concert in the London Wembley Stadium.
A1 Moroman Wouele 4:22
A2 Bolomakoté Mahama 3:42
A3 Mandela 3:06
A4 Nianiae Lomina 4:54
A5 Kodine 5:08
B1 Samba 4:20
B2 Patron Mousso (Instrumental) 5:40
B3 Goulikanairi Ye 2:53
B4 Kabouroudibi 6:23
Balafon – Baba Diara, Mahama Konaté
Djembé – Paco Yé Adama
Flute – Soungalo Coulibaly
Lead Vocals – Mahama Konaté, Paco Yé Adama, Soungalo Coulibaly
Sad news came last friday when Ouagadougou was the centre of terrorists attacks claimed by an African branch of Al Qaeda. The hostage crisis ended in The Splendid Hotel with a total of 27 deaths.
Inbetter times Burkina Fasowasknownasarelatively peacefulcountry. ThepredominantlyMuslim countrylocated inthe West Africanregionisaffected more oftenrecentlyby the violence ofjihadistmilitias.Butpreviouslythe countryremained relativelyspared fromjihadistviolence, unlike neighboringcountries like MaliandNiger.
Itcomes asno surprise to know that many French artists in the 60s and 70s went to Burkina Faso to perform or record music with local artists. Like Serge Franklin whose artistic itinerary starts in France in the 60s as an author-songwriter when he published several 45s under his own name. The singer quickly became a studio musician as a sitar player and accompanied singers like Gilles Vigneault and Georges Moustaki at the Bobino theater in Paris, respectively in 1966 and 1969.
In 1971 Serge Franklin traveled to India where he perfected his skills on sitar under the pseudonym Adjenar Sidhar Khan. As a lover of primitive stringed instruments, Franklin recorded a rather remarkable album in Ouagadougou, featuring mainly local instruments like the cora, balafon, zanza and the bow.
The album contains a beautiful version of ‘Licha Wetche’, a traditional song that was popular with many artists. See also the Bleached Zulu
“Pour Recevoir Vos Amis Comme À Ouagadougou, Afrique” by Les Griots was released in France as part of the series Exotissiomo in 1975. It is a collection of traditional songs, field recordings and newly written material by Serge Franklin, performed by local musicians.
Ah Glorious Summer! Now that the weather finally feels tropical here in Holland, it’s time go out and see some new African bands –and a few old favourites too- at the Afrikafestival in Hertme, Twente. Now in its 26th year
From 13:00 on Saturday 5th of July right through to 01:00 on Sunday 6th of July, there will be six groups playing. Three will be performing in the Netherlands for the first time and one of the groups will even be playing in Europe for the first time– a European debut!
The festival starts with Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa from Morocco. This group is often used to close the show at festivals, but in Hertme they will be the opening act. The Gnawa trance of Aziz will evolve into the heady trance of the BKO Quintet from Mali in which the hunters-ngoni from the Wassoulou area and the griot ngoni meet.
Singer Nancy Vieira from Cape Verde with her swinging ballads provides a haven of rest in the afternoon. They are one of the most promising new live bands in Ghana. This is their European debut – an exclusive for Hertme. Do not miss the chance to see this new exciting band performing for the first time outside Africa.
As night begins to fall, it will be time for Black Bazar. This group brings a mix of rumba and soukous from Congo. Next on stage will be Debademba from Burkina Faso/Mali. Both groups delivering us with an explosive dance party on this summer night.
Sunday 6th of July is the day of the big names.
At 12:00 o’clock the day kicks off with the magic and virtuoso guitar playing of Teta from Madagascar.
Mamar Kassey are an old acquaintance of Hertme having played there in 2008. Since then, they have become one of the top African bands.
The excellent Ethiopian Circus Debre Berhan will amaze you while Fendika provides explosive music and ‘shoulder-dance’.
The first African circus working with disabled and deaf people
The amazing Ethiopian Circus Debre Berhan was formed in 1998 in the town of the same name, three hours away from Addis. One can find circuses all around Ethiopia, in Addis Abeba and in various smaller towns. Although it’s not an old tradition in the country circus has a very important impact on communities, as they often mix stories about society (violence on women, HIV prevention, etc.) and more straightforward performances. The Circus is working with more than 100 acrobats, including children.
One of the important features in this circus, however, lies in the fact that it employs performers who have physical disabilities as well as those who are deaf. It is the first African circus working with disabled people. These performers, both those in the children’s act and the adult’s act, are extremely talented. Circus Debre Berhan’s shows open with the children’s beautiful and often very challenging acrobatics, followed by the adult act, which is staggering in its intricacy and difficulty. The performances are usually held in public spaces such as markets and main squares where possible in order to reach and entertain as many people as possible.
At the moment, Circus Debre Berhan is touring all over Ethiopia with its hundred or so performers split into small groups, to cover the vast countryside. If it continues its success, it will hopefully help change perceptions of disability and stigma.
Ferocious five-piece band with two phenomenal dancers
Fendika is a troupe of highly accomplished Azmari musicians and dancers. Founded in 2009 by Melaku Belay, a leading dancer, the ensemble is based at Melaku’s famous music club Fendika Azmari Bet in Addis Abeba. In Ethiopian culture, an Azmari bet is a traditional house of music where people come to be entertained, informed, and sometimes playfully insulted by the Azmari, who serve as current events commentators while they dance, sing, and play for tips.
Melaku is one of Ethiopia’s foremost dancers of the eskesta, a traditional Ethiopian trance dance of athletic shoulder movements. Growing up as a street kid, Melaku learned many regional dances of Ethiopia. He has travelled throughout Ethiopia to learn the dance traditions of the country’s 80 tribal groups. The musicians and dancers of Fendika present a cultural journey starting in the highlands of Tigray, Wollo, Gonder, and Gojam and so on.
Melaku Belay, dances;
Zinash Tsegaye, dance;
Misale Legesse, kobero (trad. drums);
Endris Hassen, masinko (one cord violin);
Nardos Tesfaw, vocals.
The biggest highlight of the 26th Africa Festival will be the historic reunion of Les Ambassadeurs. One of the members of this legendary group is Salif Keita. Together with his colleagues from the 1970’s, he will play the finest Malian music from that period.
Habib Koité hardly needs no further introduction. He closes the festival with his new band. It will also be the presentation of his new CD Soô.
Throughout the entire month of May Soul Safari will be listing field recordings, folk, private pressings, township jive & kwela jazz, African jazz, soul & boogie, mbanqaga,and much much more with absolutely no reserves.
Records that have been presented on these pages over the last five years are now on auction. So here is your change to grab some rare African vinyl as I am cleaning out my shelves to make room for new music.
Some highlights; a collection of ultra rare and seldom heard field recordings from ILAM, recorded by Hugh Tracey. These records were purchased many years ago directly from ILAM in South Africa from what was left of their unsold stock. All records come in their original cover with the labels attached to the back cover and are unplayed, in brand new mint condition.
More Soul Safari favs like great 45’s by jive kings The Soweto Boys, mbanqaga queens The Manzini Girls are now on auction.
Now that the new year lays ahead like a blank canvas, I find inspiration in a record by Ephat Mujuru, a Zimbabwean musician who excelled at playing the mbira. Nobody knows what 2014 will bring, but let this music guide the listener like a traveler on a long journey.
Ephat Mujuru (1950–2001), was a Zimbabwean musician, one of the 20th century’s finest players of the mbira, a traditional instrument of the Shona ethnic group of Zimbabwe.
The mbira dzavadzimu (the mbira of ancestral spirits) is a symbol of the traditional culture of Zimbabwe. The music of the mbira forms a link between the real and the spirit worlds, and the mbira player holds an important position within traditional society, being called upon through his music at ceremonies to evoke the particular spirit or ‘Sviriko’ to be called.
Ephat Mujuru came from a renowned mbira-playing family which can be traced back to the time of Monomatapa. Through playing at the family’s ‘bira’spirit ceremonies, the young Ephat was initiated into the secrets of the instrument by his grandfather, Sekuru Muchatera Mujuru, a great mbira player whom he wished as a boy to emulate. He tells of the conflict he found at school, where the mission teaching at the time denounced music as being a sin against God. This did not stop him from playing the music of his poeple, given by the great creator God Mwari, as a means of communicating with Him through ancestrial spirits.
Ephat Mujuru was a quiet, poetic man whose understanding and love of the music he played is matched only by his ability as a musician. His reputation was such that he was invited in 1980 for a lecture tour of the United States where he gave lectures/demonstrations at many of America’s leading universities.
The influence of mission school education and Western musical idiom had a negative effect for some time on traditional music, but in recent years this has given way to a renaissance of the mbira and its value as a link with the ancestry and culture of the Shona people.
The pieces posted here today are played on the mbira dzavadzimu (or in some instances the njari mbira) are accompanied by a second mbira, rattles (hosho), drums (ngoma), clapping (makwa) and singing (kuimba). The voice patterns are as important as the music and are divided into the mahongera, the deep, low voice; the huro, the high, yodelling voice; the kupurudza, the ululating voice (a woman’s part) and the kudeketera , the poetic narrative.
Both player and singer may intuitively modify music or lyrics and the interpretation of the traditional song may vary amongst musicians, but the ancient version known to all players will still be recognisable.
The leading vocalist of the group is Charles Gushungo whose exceptional voice and command of all three traditional song patterns is widely acknowledged and evidenced here.
This song tells the story of Chipembere, the rhinoceros, feared for his powerful turn of speed. It is sung for a traveller embarking on a long journey, and the music imparts to him the speed and strength of the rhino, that he may accomplish his journey with ease.
The eternal myth of paradise, as old as man himself, is retold here in the song Guru Uswa. It tells the story of the Africa of mythical times, a land of milk and honey, yet at the same time it sings of Zimbabwe, the realisation of the promised land.
A story of misfortune and the power of the music of the spirits to intervene. A man wanders lost and alone, calling out “Ndoziwa Ripi- what shall I do? My family is dead and I am alone”. As he wanders he plays a plaintive song on his mbira. The chapungu eagle, bird of the spirits, appears in the sky and guides him to a settlement of people. Hearing the notes of the mbira, the people welcome him with singing and dancing. He is accepted into their community and revered for his ability to play the mbira.
text from the liner notes of The Spirit of the People -Ephat Mujuru Ensemble plays Mbira music from Zimbabwe
one of the most fascinating books about African masks that I own must be ‘Maske’ by Phyllis Galembo, a professor of Art at the State University of New York whose pictures are frequently exhibited in museums around the world. Her work is also collected by all major institutions such as the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the MOMA in NYC etc.
Galembo’s previous books include “Divine Inspiration; From Benin to Bahia” (1993), ‘Vodou, Visions and Voices from Haiti “(1998) and” Dressed for Thrills, 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerades “(2002). From Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin to Haiti “Maske”(2010) showcases the most beautiful photographs of masquerades from Africa and its diaspora. A well recommended photobook!
For over two decades, Phyllis Galembo has documented cultural and religious traditions in Africa and the African diaspora. Her subjects are participants in masquerade events-traditional African ceremonies and contemporary fancy dress and carnival-who use costume, body paint and masks to create mythic characters . Sometimes entertaining and humorous, or dark and frightening, her portraits document and describe the transformative power of the mask. With a title derived from the Haitian Kreyòl word ‘maské’, meaning ‘to wear a mask’, this album features a selection of over a hundred of the best of Galembo’s masquerade photographs to date. Organised country-based chapters, each with her own commentary.