February 21, 2015


The record I would like to share with you in this post has been in my possession for quite a few decades. I can't even remember where and when I bought it. But listening to it again, years later, all of a sudden the penny dropped.
This happens occasionally, and it usually leaves me wondering why the penny was stuck in the first place. Maybe it has to do with maturity and the patience (never one of my key features..) that is said to come with it. Or maybe it has to do with the relative quality of the recording: the bigger the pile of disappointing (or downright crap) new releases, the better the chances for the former 'mediocre' recordings. In this case I suspect it may have to do with never getting beyond the first track, combined with my generic impatience.

A big mistake, I admit it.
For this is a special lp. The artists are probably from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and have - as far as I am aware - never gained any renown outside of their region. The Kwana-Moto Band is led by Alport Astazio, and the latter is also responsible as composer or arranger for the twelve songs on this album. The principal instrument of the group is - as the cover suggests - the marimba. The marimba skills of the group are particularly evident from the tracks "Odoli"(b2) and "Gweru" (b4), if you ask me.

The two final tracks of each side demonstrate that the repertoire of the group is somewhat wider. Both songs are of the kind that take some getting used to. "Intandane (Orphans)", clearly a sad theme, starts off with an acoustic guitar, a flute and a female singer, but when a man has repeated the lines of the woman a mbira joins in and the songs changes in character. Strangely it fades out when one would expect a lot more... The second non-marimba song, "Urombo (Poverty)", is a more typical instrumental mbira tune.

The songs which make this album really special are the songs with lyrics. These lyrics are mainly spoken and not sung, or perhaps I should say they are mumbled. Because they are drowned out by the instruments. In "Kwira Mungoro [Get Into The Cart]" the argument between the woman and the man is still audible, and in "Ranchera" the instruments quieten to allow the singing to be heard, but in "Lobengula" (my favourite song of the album) all that remains are the mutterings of a man about his experiences in the big city.

Please listen to the album a few times, it may grow on you.

Inter Africa Records 1ALP9

February 08, 2015

Moriba Kaba

In 1988 he was not one to push himself to the forefront. He hadn't been part of the European tours of the years before, so he was 'outside'.
Guitarist Mama Sissoko had moved himself in the limelight during the concerts in Holland, and - according to some - was rivalling for the position of leader of the orchestra, after the retirement of Amadou 'Armstrong' Bah. But sax player (and hunter) Mamadou Diarra better known as 'Blick' had filled that position, a logical choice given the historic focus on the horn section.
I had met with Toussaint Siané a few months before, and had been spotted by Amadou Bah when he was touring in Ségou on his Yamaha motorcycle while I was trying to get some money out of the bank.

Singer Papa Gaoussou Diarra I didn't meet until I saw Super Biton play at the Hotel GTM on November 19, 1988.

Both public and bandmembers addressed him as Papus, at the the time. Later on, after he had made three solo albums (one of these is posted here), he acquired the surname of "Pèkèlè", after one of his hit songs. But to me he will always be linked to the concert at the Hotel GTM.

A few days ago I received news that he has died on January 25, at the age of just 56.

By way of a tribute to Papus I would like to share with you the song that earned him a place in my list of best musical moments ever.
This song was the opening song of the concert at the Hotel GTM in Ségou. Technicians of Malian television were still installing their equipment to record a few songs, which were to be part of a celebratory emission for the (then) president Moussa Traoré. On guitar is, of course, Mama Sissoko, and the vocal in this Malinké classic is by Papa Gaoussou Diarra.

Moriba Kaba (flac)

Additionally here is a video of a song featuring Papa Diarra, recorded at the Institut Français in Bamako in October 2011. The sound is slightly overmodulated (sorry).