Friday, February 26, 2010

K7-10: Tara Bouare

This cropped picture was taken years ago for other purposes and was found now in my computer; not complete, but something.

I know very little about Tara Bouare, and most (all) of what I do know is from brief internet searches.  She seems to be regarded as a musical pillar of Malian and Bambara culture, and has remained a vital and inspiring figure in the cultural consciousness as far as twenty years after her death in 1971 or 1972.

Dictator Moussa Traore's caravan was stopped by the now current second-term president Amadou Toumani Toure, in 1991.  At the time ATT was general of the military and his coup took place as the result of Traore's violent suppression of growing protests against his thirty year reign as head of state/presidency of Mali.  Traore's security forces opened fire on a crowd of protestors, killing around three hundred people on March 22, 1991 in central Bamako.  Apparently Tara Bouare's song Sanounegueni was somewhat of an anthem at the time*.  The translation is golden rod, and the substance of the song, I've read to be, is that no kingdom is forever.  One can imagine that during a time of favourable political upheaval and transition, such a message would be inspiring, and especially--at least from my perspective as an outsider looking in--since that message was delivered by means of a simple song by an artist who had been absent, yet apparently lingering in the public consciousness, for the previous twenty years.

Goes to show the power of song and the Malian musician!

**Interesting note: Friends in Yanfolila told me that during Moussa Traore's reign, his police forces were instructed to stop anyone from playing kamelengoni down south.  It was thought that too much entertainment meant too little work, so anyone seen playing was promptly made to stop.  This might explain the legends of late-night gatherings and dancing outside of town, of which I have no reference to direct you, but remember reading.  I wonder what (negative) effect such a policy had on the prevalence of the instrument today.**

Thursday, February 18, 2010

K7-9: Souley Kante

Souley Kante: artist, auto-mechanic, smith, and traditional doctor*.  I had to pay extra for this one.  At the time I was searching for kamelengoni tapes and a vendor told me that since he had held onto this copy over the years he wouldn't sell it for the normal CFA, but instead wanted 1.5oo CFA.  I bought the tape and I'm quite happy I did.  

I didn't know at that time--but soon found out--that Souley Kante has been around the Malian musical block: inspired by Coumba Sidibe, formed a group with Sali Sidibe, and toured with Oumou Sangare until the bird flew off on his own musically successful solo career.  

Venture over to Awesome Tapes for another Kante mango if you haven't already.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

K7-8: Djeneba Seck

Speaking of Djeneba Seck, Tigne is another one of my favorites.  The beauty of this cassette in my eyes, is its simplicity, Djeneba's simple honesty as a singer.  What I mean is that she is not exerting herself to impress us with her prowess as a vocalist; rather, she is impressing us by her effortless talent as a vocalist--like she's just speaking, but speaking very beautifully.

Acoustic musique malienne is my favorite.  I like the playful guitar and flute introduction on Yere Ladi.  And during the song Foulbe I imagine a courtyard procession with drummers clacking and women dressed in their finest wax, stepping in time as they march down the center of crowded lines of people.  It seems as though Zoumana Tereta is the go-to, when it comes to soku.  I have no complaints with that.

Sterns put this out as a CD (titled Truth in English) and I can notice two differences: the CD has a twelfth track that my cassette does not, and the cover is different--so I didn't post Sterns', yet mine is with the physical tape miles and miles away.  I do suspect however, that my tape--regardless of it having a jacket--is a bootleg anyway, which would explain a lot to me.

I remember standing on a balcony one night in the quartier Hamdallaye in Bamako, hearing this tape blaring out of a boom-box from below and I immediately melted; not because of the absurdly oppressive heat, but because of Djeneba's voice.  And months later on a rather uneventful bus-ride, at least in terms of what one might imagine a bus-ride in Mali could be like, Anka Maliba was one of a handful of songs on the one mix-tape in the bus, played morning till night for two-and-a-half days (Bamako-->Dakar, the train had wrecked weeks earlier, sadly killing my friend who preferred to be called Mike (pictured below).  If it were not for his friendship and those which followed as a result, my life would be quite different today).  Come to think of it, there was a group of Nigerians on that bus who were relocating to Gambia.  I served as translator between the French speaking and English speaking, and tossed in whatever Wolof or Bambara I could handle (I was better at Wolof).  At the Senegal-Mali border I was the only person not required to bribe my way through; the officers were very cordial.  So I guess more happened on that ride than I tend to give any event, I bought the tape.


**Pictured below is Mike, from Benin.  He more-or-less lived on the train (pictured above), taking and filling orders between the Dakar and Bamako markets.  He and dozens others never paid passage but knew exactly when to avoid the train officials, thus avoiding any unfortunate incidents.  The train took five days and four nights.  I don't know if that's normal, though it wouldn't surprise me.**

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For your viewing pleasure

Scans of the Mali K7 CD release in 1999, courtesy of Scott:

What good detectives we are.  Oumou and Kassim, no Baba Salah, and as an added bonus, I'm happy to see Djeneba Seck listed as well.

Post script:  In my excitement to make digital these wonders of Wassoulou culture, Bambara culture, West African...etc., I overlooked what I now realize is an important step.  You may be aware that my cassettes were not digitized at an optimal bitrate (rather at 128kbps), so I propose this: every new cassette I digitize will be at a higher bitrate.  And, as I have time to work through some of the old tapes (which are currently 1986.05 miles/3196.24km away from me), I'll post them, because I too, would enjoy the improved quality.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

K7-7: Nabintou Diakite

La Nouvelle Revelation du Wassoulou is another solid cassette from the region--more undiluted beauty, as someone described the previous cassette to me.  Nabintou's is a little more dynamic than that of Doussouba Traore; less driving, you may notice.  However, that is not to say one is any better or worse than the other.

Nabintou, I believe, is Oumou Sangare's cousin and was a backing vocalist in her group.  I wouldn't be surprised if Oumou is singing on this one too.  In fact, I think members of Oumou's group are probably playing on this tape.  I saw a roster for the musicians on another of Nabintou's tape, which included Kassim Sidibe, who I know was Oumou's kamelengoni player.  

The kamelengoni on this tape is a prominent feature, largely leading the music.  On some tracks, the longer cycles of melody it plays before repeating, fills a more melodic role than it usually has on other tapes by Bintou Sidibe or Aissata Sidibe, where it is primarily a rhythm machine with short fills and fast solos that allow more instrumentation to be layered on top for the main melody.


**If you recall from my post about Seydou Camara, I have had great success tracking down the out of print text, as well as some other interesting resources.  When I get something coherent together I'll be sure to share**

**Enjoy scenic downtown Bamako, pictured up top.  Amadou Toumani Toure's palais présidentiel looms atop the hill, which is also where you can find Point G, one of the two main hospitals in Bamako and greater Mali.  If you get lost wandering the angled streets use the cathedral with the clock as a landmark--it helps**