Salif Keita and Mory Kante took their first steps in music with this mythical band. All the songs are recent and unprecedented, and whether they are original or inspired by tradition, they are a celebration to courage, honesty, respect for others…
High-pitched voices and undulating melodies, colourful brass and unbelievable guitars are the fuel for Bamako’s golden locomotive, which thunders from savannah Blues to urban Manding rock.
Photograph: Philippe Dupuich
In Mali, where traditional music has always been of an extraordinary vitality, the birth of the first “modernised folk” band, as African electric music was then called, was not witnessed until 1970. This group, the Super Rail Band of Bamako, was to become to modern Manding music what E. T. Mensah was to High-Life (Ghana), what Mahlathini was to Mbaqanga (South Africa) and what I. K. Dairo was to Juju Music (Nigeria). The band’s successive singers – of whom the first two, Salif Keita and Mory Kante, are best known in the West - were to become the uncontested superstars of the Malian musical scene right up until the arrival of Wassolou music in the nineties.
However, at lot has happened since the memorable night of the Rail Band’s first concert in March 1970, when Salif Keita sang from the back of the stage, his head covered by a bath towel, so great was his shame in lowering himself to the level of Griot, and the group has had its moments of doubt. They thus recorded two rumba albums in the mid-seventies in an attempt to join the Zairian trend that was sweeping across Africa at the time. Then came the craze for “World Music” in the West and the Rail Band gently returned to their original Manding style, knowing that they were unequalled in this style. But after a career spanning more than 25 years, a group needs to evolve. It was with their sound that they could do so, without betraying the purity of their style. Their latest album preserves the ample breathing inherited from the Griots, the superb melodies, the acid guitars which counterbalance the soothing brass, but the mix is modern. Our way of listening has changed and this recording, produced with the assistance of Xavier Jouvelet (percussionist for Ray Lema and Papa Wemba) takes this change into account. Jean-Philippe Rykiel’s accompaniment, “the only white to sound like an African” according to Salif Keita, adds a new depth to the music. The brass section, augmented by a number of Parisian musicians, scrupulously follows the original riffs, while Djelimady Tounkara delivers, as ever, marvellously precise and fluid guitar solos. These two albums on Indigo, the first one eponymous, the second Mansa, crown a remarkable twenty-five year career and attest to the longevity of one of Africa’s greatest groups.
Go to :
Boubacar Traore ; Djelimady Tounkara ; Rokia Traore ; Ballaké Sissoko ; Kamale N'goni.
Name: Run Productions/Yorrick Benoît
Adress: 44, Grand Rue