Review : Various Artists - Bambara Mystic Soul The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso 1974-1979
PitchforkIf you're glancing through the CIA World Fact Book, Burkina Faso might not seem to be the most likely source of majestic, electrifying dance band music. It's one of the world's least developed countries, a place people leave so they can support their families back home with the living they make abroad. Its president has his own private plane, but less than 30% of its people can read and write, though a two-decade-long campaign has improved the literacy rate from about 13% 20 years ago. But if there's anything searching for music from around the world will teach you, it's that people find a way.
Back in the 1970s, Burkina Faso was still called Upper Volta. The name was a leftover from the country's colonial era, when the French ruled it as part of their West African empire. The decade was a time of relative political stability-- the country was ruled by a series of military and civil-military governments, but they were all led by the same man: Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana. In the cities of Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, a cosmopolitan nightlife had been brewing since the early post-war years, and largely through patronage and foreign connections, a few bands had scraped together the necessary equipment to play a modern repertoire of calypsos, rumbas, highlife tunes, waltzes, and foxtrots. The country's fledgling music industry crystallized in 1974 around two Ouaga-based labels: Volta Discobel and CVD (Club Voltaïque du Disque)....full text
PopmattersAs more and more compilations come out celebrating African music from the Ď70s, it gets harder and harder to make each collection unique. At some point, the market has to get flooded, and we seem to be reachingóor perhaps weíre already pastóthat breaking point. Despite that uphill climb, there are still labels digging deep to give us new sounds from a golden age in Afro-beat and Afro-funk music. Analog Africa has, for 10 years, been at the forefront of this musical exploration and given us some of the finest compilations to date: Check their Legends of Benin if you havenít yet.
And now theyíre celebrating their 10th anniversary with another strong collection, Bambara Mystic Soul. The set is a bit more obscure than other compilations, digging into the music of Burkina Faso. This area of Africa south of the Sahara is an arid stretch of land that runs between Dakar and Djibouti, but it produced some great music after gaining independence from French occupation. Itís a sound very much in line with sounds youíve heard from other areasóNigeria, Benin, Dakaróbut itís got its own unique mix of influences that make Burkinabe music unique and vibrant, and this collection reveals yet another gem in the world of African music.
The strength of this music actually came out in competition. Despite post-independence political instability, an urban middle class grew in Burkina Faso from which a glut of singers and musicians blossomed. Most importantly, perhaps, emerged two competing labelsóVolta Discobel and Club Voltaique Du (CVD)óand in battling for the modern music in the region, they challenged good bands to become great. Judging from the collection here, the ones that were up to the task thrived, as did both labels....full text
AllmusicBambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso: 1974-1979, the tenth volume in Analog Africa's ongoing series uncovering the forgotten sounds of the continent, takes us to new terrain once more: the miniscule, landlocked country of the West that is Burkina Faso. Containing 16 cuts, much of this music reflects the gigantic footprint of Nigeria's Afro-beat. That said, this set does contain its own mercurial, unique character, and in some cases relies more heavily on trance-inducing sounds of traditional folk, funk forms, and even Latin sources imported by the country's musicians who'd had to travel elsewhere to play and record due to poor recording conditions in their own country. The central figure of this collection is Amadou Ballake. The fourth track, "Renouveau," is indeed the muse that put Samy Ben Redjeb on the quest to assemble this stellar compilation. (The liner notes, in typical Redjeb fashion, detail the arduous process of travel and acquisition of the rights to reissue this material properly and make sure everyone -- save for himself, probably -- got paid. The man's a record geek's saint.) "Renouveau" moves off at the generally fast and furious tempo of the Afro-beat-inflected first three cuts (all excellent) into a much spacier, otherworldly space. Ballake is an utterly fantastic vocalist, whether he's laying out this moaning trance induction for outer -- and inner -- space; charging furiously through the Latin tinge in "Baden Ojougou"; or seductively groaning and boasting in a folk ballad like "Sali," which makes this -- along with the playing and production -- a psychedelic rocket ride. Ballake may be the most often-featured performer here, but he's far from the only star. Afro Soul System's "Tink Tank" is an Afro-beat-charged funk stomper with a burning guitar break. (One of the things that distinguishes Burkina Faso's pop music is the use of electric guitar way up front.) Another winner is the roiling, greasy funk of "Love Music and Dance" by Mamo Lagbema (contrast it with their "Zambo Zambo" later in the set for a shock). The brilliantly knotty guitar interplay on Orchestre CVD's "Rog Mik Africa" uses folk forms, rock, keyboard-driven rhythms, and chanted harmonies in an infectious, celebratory way. The furious percussion and organ on "Katougou" by Seydou Richard Traore is another wildly original take on Afro-beat. The bottom line is that Bambara Mystic Soul is as necessary as any of its predecessors, but is, taken on its own, a revelatory look at a music virtually hidden from the West and Europe before now....full text
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