Historic photos taken by Ton Verhees before and during the last concert of Franco et le T.P.O.K. Jazz at the Melkweg in Amsterdam, - just 20 days before his death in Namur, Belgium.
We had already seen the dramatically slimmed-down Franco at the same location, the Melkweg in Amsterdam, in January. But as he walked through the main entrance of the same theatre surrounded by his musicians just over 9 months later, he looked but a shadow of his former self. The musicians were clearly worried. Dizzy Mandjeku shook his head and told me "Ça ne va pas". They had tried to persuade him not come, to stay in Brussels, but he had been adamant. He had made a promise and he was going to keep it.
Encouraged by the pleasant and open interview during his last visit I had prepared a long list of questions. But seeing the man it was clear not only that Franco was too busy with his present condition and with what he had set himself to do, but also that I would not have the emotional nerve to bother an obviously very sick man with issues from the past.
The concert itself remains a painful memory for all those who were present. Some of those were perhaps not aware of the severity of the occasion. Many, including myself, still feel the intense sadness of seeing this tout-puissant musical giant so powerless, so fragile, struggling and frustrated.
Fortunately a Malian journalist and friend, Bouné Zouboye, did have the courage to talk to Franco, after the concert. The short interview fully captures the emotion of the moment, not only of Franco's own desperation, but also of the feelings of compassion and profound sympathy felt by the public on that historic evening, 24 years ago...
With the holiday period over and business returning to normal I am hoping to find more time for this blog. Particularly I hope to post a few of the albums, cassettes and recordings I have promised in previous posts.
I would like to start with an album I referred to in a post more than two years ago. And I am not going to repeat what I wrote then, so this can be a short post.
This lp, recorded in Abidjan in 1979, is not my favourite by Djelimadi Tounkara and the Rail Band du Mali, but it does have some of my favourite tracks by the orchestra. I agree with Graeme Counsel (see my earlier post and Graeme's notes on his website) on "Dosoke Cery", but prefer the opening track of side A, "Koulandjan", to "Djiguiya". While the organ (played by Cheikh Tidiane Seck) is slightly irritating, particularly because of the thin sound, horns and guitars are nicely proportioned in this Malinké classic. Djelimadi himself (lead guitar) is great on all the tracks, and please also note the rhythm guitar, played with considerable flair and subtlety.
The singers on this album, Sekou Kanté and Sekou Kouyaté, are okay but not exceptional, and certainly not of the same level as Mory Kanté or Salif Keita. In songs like "Trio Mandingue" their harmony is a bit awkward and tends to create an atmosphere of sullen boredom.
As I mentioned I don't share the enthousiasm for the track "Djiguiya". This may have to do with Cheikh Tidiane Seck's dominant role in this song and my general aversion to 'funky tunes'.
To me the star of this album is the wonderful version of "Dosoke Cery". All the elements fall into place in this song. I write "version" because if you listen carefully you may hear the similarity between the melodic theme of this song and that of "Diabaté Zani" by the Super Djata Band. This theme is, of course, derived from the music of the hunters (donso); a line of stars of the donso ngoni music is mentioned*. "Dosoke Cery" is brilliantly understated and jubilant at the same time. The jubilation is provided by the superb interaction between rhythm and lead guitar, the understating is done by both organ and singer.
I am sure many of you won't agree, but I am of the opinion that the organ is superfluous and the song would be even better without it. The organ partially neutralises the tension generated by the two guitars and the vocal. Despite this critical note, "Dosoke Cery" is still a great song.
After more than 23 years of making radio programmes I am seeking new ways to share my passion for African and Latin music. My intentions are 100% non-commercial.
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