Last recording from a master of afrobeat, salsa and afrofunk
17 July 2015
CD / download
Release date July 2015
After a career spanning a half-century during which he became the most famous musician from Burkina Faso and a legend of African popular music, Amadou Balaké died in 2014 at the age of 70. This album contains his final recordings and are a testament to his life and work.
Revisiting songs that he performed or recorded throughout his career and backed by an 11 piece band, In Conclusion sees Balaké deliver raw and true emotion through his vocals whilst updating the Mandé guitar, ngoni and balafon traditions.
"The album is a delight of the first order"
Chris May (Jocks & Nerds)
A Very Famous Man
6 March 2015
E.T. Mensah & The Tempos
King of Highlife Anthology
4 CD boxset / download
Release date Mar 2015
The founding father of the most popular style of dance music in Africa, which spread like a bushfire across the continent and beyond during the 1950s and 60s, E.T. Mensah ‘The King of Highlife’ is a true legend of African music. These classic tracks, 69 in total, many of which have not been available for more than 50 years, have been digitally transferred at the National Sound Archive with the cooperation of the Mensah family and estate.
Produced by RetroAfric and released on the 6th of March -Ghana Independence Day- this 4 CD boxset includes a 64-page biography by Highlife expert John Collins, making it the ultimate music lovers compendium of one of the most revered of all African composers and band leaders.
Invoke Your Buda!
17 January 2015
Convoque Seu Buda
CD / 180g gatefold vinyl / download
Release date Jan 2015
Currently one of the most vital, popular and socially-relevant artists in Brazil, Criolo returns with the same team that produced Nó na orelha, the album that won him critical acclaim and loyal audiences the world over.
Afrobeat, samba, hip hop, trip hop and tropicalia are evoked to deliver Criolo's observations, embibed as always with a voice that defines light and shade.
Today there are no lips to kiss, no soul to cleanse, no life to live, but there’s money to count (chorus: Esquiva da Esgrima)
14 October 2014
Djessou Mory Kanté
River Strings - Maninka Guitar
Double CD / download
Release date Oct 2014
More than a decade and a half after his first international solo release, Djessou Mory Kanté returns with a collection of beautifully crafted instrumentals. Rooted in the Maninka traditions of Guinea and Mali, River Strings flows with rich melodic interchanges; like the Niger River which inspired these recordings.
Younger brother of Les Ambassadeurs' guitarist Kanté Manfila and regular guitarist for such renowned singers as Salif Keïta and Sékouba Bambino, Djessou Mory Kanté's musicianship is gentle and understated and shows just why he is the guitarist to whom others turn.
'There are no vocals, no stunt guitar treatments, nothing to buttonhole the listener apart from the sense of all-rightness generated by faultless layers of guitar playing' (fRoots)
Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako
26 July 2014
Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako
1975 - 77
Double CD / download
Release date July 2014
In 1969 an ambitious army lieutenant, a key member of the new junta which had seized power only the previous year, decided that a band was needed to entertain customers at the Motel De Bamako, then a popular venue set in the shade of mango trees on the banks of the river Niger. With his patronage, a group coalesced and in 1972 it attracted guitarist Kanté Manfila, followed a year later by perhaps its most famous member, Salif Keita. The band took its job seriously. It is with great pleasure that Sterns are able to present this compilation of specially
mastered recording from 1975 - 1977, when the band was at its peak and in residence at the Motel de Bamako.
2 out of 5
27 April 2014
Duas de Cinco
Limited edittion 10" white vinyl
Release date April 2014
Originally released for Record Store Day 2014 this special limited 10" white numbered vinyl is the first new music from Criolo since the release of the acclaimed album Nó na Orelha.
Mayra Andrade returns
14 April 2014
CD / Download
Release date April 2014
Recorded entirely in Brighton, with deft touches from British soul legend, Omar, and guitar and percussion by long-time Cape Verdean collaborators Kim Alves and Zé Luis Nascimento, Lovely Difficult is Mayra's 4th album. Singing in Cape-Verdean Creole, Portuguese, French and English Lovely Difficult mirrors her peripatetic upbringing whilst flirting playfully with a more pop sound. But die-hard fans need not worry as Mayra still evokes the seductive morna of Cape Verde which she is fêted for.
'It's your summer soundtrack' (The Sunday Times)
Get your funk on!
14 April 2014
My Vote Dey Count
CD / Download / limited edittion LP
Release date April 2014
The follow-up to 2010's Afrobeast finds Yaaba Funk maturing their high energy modern highlife-meets-afrobeat signature sound. Confident drums and percussion propel Yaaba Funk's dual vocal delivery as afrobeat horn sections stab off the beat making the infectious beat downright contagious. My Vote Dey Count covers all aspects of this Ghanaian focussed collective, with social politics never far from the surface, and a solid dose of African funk, it all comes together to form the unique and powerful sound which is ... Yaaba Funk!
'solid and confident, with musical wit and drive' (fRoots)
'far more accomplished and engaging album than anything recently released by the legendary Kuti clan' **** (Songlines)
'The Brixton 10-piece's second album packs a punch from the off' ****(Independent)
We got the Sudanese blues
26 March 2014
CD / Download
Release date March 2014
Backed by double bass, acoustic guitar and percussion, and with only the lightest of touches from other guest musicians, Amira Kheir continues to develop and refine her unique interpretation of the Sudanese tradition. In the spirit of the album's title, “the desert”, her sound is clear and ascetic, recorded in the acoustically beautiful space of the Union Chapel, London, it is a true and honest reflection of Amira's own compelling live performances. Her music might be set in the wide open spaces of Alsahraa, but here its impact is intimate and personal.
Le Grand Kallé
25 March 2014
Le Grand Kallé:
His Life, His Music
CD / Download
Release date 14 Oct 2014
The world has taken many things from the Congo... the only thing given and received with honest pleasure has been music.
Joseph Kabasele – or the Grand Kallé, as he was known to his fellow musicians, his
fans and even to Heads of State – lies at the very centre of the great mosaic that is African popular music. Without him the picture would be unrecognisable.
Kabasele led Orchestre African Jazz, the seminal Congolese rumba band which
included the preeminent guitarist of the time, Dr Nico, the singer and songwriter Tabu Ley
Rochereau and the saxophonist Manu Dibango. In the turbulent times before and after
Congo's independence in 1960, Kallé and his band were the most influential in Africa, and
today their sound is still a key foundation upon which its popular music is built.
Sequenced chronologically and featuring recordings, some taken from shellac and
vinyl that have been unavailable for decades, together with Kabasele’s most famous
works, this double album features a 104-page book in both English and French.
Eloquently written, well-illustrated and insightfully researched with lyric excerpts translated
from the original languages, it reveals the man, his music and its context as never before.
Finally, Le Grand Kallé receives the testament he's always deserved.
24 September 2013
CD / Download
Release date 24 September 2014
Mastermind producer Ibrahima Sylla and arranger Boncana Maïga return with the continent crossing salsa supergroup Africando.p>
Africando’s 8th studio album, this is the first not recorded primarily in New York. This
time the Africando masterminds, producer Ibrahima Sylla and arranger Boncana Maïga,
bring New York’s top Latin musicians – led by pianist Oscar Hernandez – to Paris. There
they reunite with the group’s vocal stars, Medoune Diallo, Sékouba Bambino, Amadou
Ballaké and Shoubou, along with distinguished guest singers from diverse African and
American countries, singing, all told, in 10 different languages.
But whatever the language, with Africando it’s always classic big-band salsa – salsa
dura – the hottest Afro-Latin style. That dedication to a golden sound is brought home in
the album finale, a tribute to Africando by the great contemporary American champions of
classic salsa, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, featuring Ray de la Paz. ¡Viva!
Titina Sings the Songs of Cape Verde Legend
17 July 2013
Titina Canta B.Leza
CD / Download
Release date 10 September 2013
A landmark Cape Verdean album, re-mastered and re-packaged to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
In the cosy Creole town of Mindelo in Cape Verde, Titina used to wake each morning to follow the smell of fresh corn bread and coffee which would lead her to her neighbouring house and to the bewitching chords of its owner, legendary Cape Verdean composer, poet and activist B. Leza (1905 – 1958).
Produced and arranged by Paulino Vieira who also produced and arranged for Cesaria Evora, the album ‘Titina Canta B. Leza’ was immediately applauded as a classic by her fellow Cape Verdeans and sold out many times over upon its initial release, and then again when it was re-issued upon CD. Now we hope this definitive edition, prepared by Astral Music in partnership with Titina, will be with us for a long time to come and help seal the gap that the many years of it being unavailable have created.
Today it has been 25 years since Titina recorded these songs and like her music, the islands of Cape Verde are also becoming better known, not just for their sunny climate but because of icons such as B. Leza who gave them their sound. As these sounds made their way to seduce across the world, it is B. Leza who lead this great voyage and Titina who lent her voice to his magnetic and inspiring songs.
--- An ASTRAL MUSIC Production ---
Mazembe @ 45rpm
19 March 2013
Orchestra Super Mazembe
Mazembe @ 45rpm
CD / Download
Release date 1 April 2013
In 1975, Orchestra Super Mazembe finally arrived in Nairobi having left Zaïre some 5 years before. Their first years were lean, but in 1977 they scored a huge hit with the single Kassongo, and from that point on their fortunes lay in East Africa. They were incredibly productive; by 1984 they had released 42 singles under the Editions Mazembe imprint alone, and they toured relentlessly.
This crucial selection from the late 1970s of one of the most successful of all East African dance orchestras gathers together some of Mazembe's most popular 45rpm singles which have never before been released on CD.
'Earthmovingly glorious East African gem' (fRoots April 2013)
Classic bands from Mali
15 February 2013
Legendary Bands of Mali
Release date 15 Februay 2013
In 1988 we released our first compilation to showcase some of the great national and regional bands of Mali. It was taken from albums recorded by the German label Bärenreiter-Musicaphon for the Ministry Of Information in Mali and released as a series entitled Mali Music. All are now long out of print.
Since independence Mali had organised a series of bi-annual cultural festivals. In 1970 the music winner was the Orchestre Regional de Segou and it was these, along with fellow regional and national orchestras, who were recorded.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original release of our compilation, we are making it available digitally for the first time. All transfers are taken directly from the restored analogue tape as originally supplied to Sterns.
Heart & Soul
21 January 2013
Heart and Soul
Release date 21 January 2013
CD / Download
For years Clinton Fearon was the bass player, vocalist, composer and lyricist for one of the most successful reggae bands, The Gladiators. In tandem with this, he was a house musician for both Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One and Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark Studio, thus sealing his career as a roots reggae master. Entirely acoustic, Heart And Soul is a brand new album from Fearon that includes 2 bonus tracks and bears witness to his early work with the Gladiators.
24 December 2012
New Sounds from Senegal
Release date 24 December 2012
CD / Download
On any given day or night in recent years, you could turn on a radio or TV in Senegal and hear at least one of the songs in this new compilation. Many of the artists tap into various roots in the fertile soil of Senegalese culture; others stand apart and draw what they like from near and far. Sharing this double album, released in partnership with SEN TV and ZIK FM in Senegal, are Les Frères Guissé with their lean, acoustic sound, the indomitable Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane and a new generation of artists such as Queen Bee, with her wry commentary on personal and social mores, and Wally B Seck, one of the most charming young romantic singers on the scene, plus many more.
THE GRIOT'S CRAFT
5 November 2012
SEKOUBA 'BAMBINO' DIABATE
The Griot's Craft
Release date 5 November 2012
CD / Download
Even as a teenager the strong, soaring voice of Sékouba 'Bambino' Diabaté was known throughout his region of north-eastern Guinea. Over the years he's presented himself in many different guises, joining Bembeya Jazz in the early eighties as lead vocal a notable mention, but each time Bambino has worked with integrity and art. Here he is stripped down to the bare minimum - which, in Guinea, means 15 musicians - but all acoustic, all beautifully sympathetic and all tight in support of the main event: Bambino's voice and his songs.Whether in praise of a patron or in condemnation of female circumcision, Bambino's voice and the uniquely rolling grooves and melancholy modes of Guinea demand that we listen. It's a command worth obeying.
22 October 2012
Release date 22 October 2012
CD / Download
Although the well-spring of Abdou's music lies in the Casamance region south of Senegal, in, among other traditions, the melodies of wandering shepherds or the music that accompanies wrestling competitions, his travelling and contact with other musicians has given him a unique sound and a fierce desire to record it. Acoustic in texture, it expresses values that are dear to rural life in the Casamance so that today, with his mottos of hard work, love and peace, Abdou has become a musical ambassador for that region. Welcome to his world.
East African Rumba Rules!
22 October 2012
Moreno and L'Orch First Moja-One
Sister Pili + 2
Release date 22 October 2012
CD / Download and limited eddition 10" Single
Still fondly remembered in Kenya, this is the first international release for Moreno Batamba since his sad death in 1993. Named for his girlfriend, a Tanzanian model, it contain his hit album of 1983 plus two ultra-rare tracks from 1977, all catching him at a peak of energy Carefully and sympathetically mastered from the original magnetic audio tapes, it shows just why the music of this time and region retains its popularity today.
***** (Songlines Magazine).
Last recordings of a legend
9 July 2012
ZANI DIABATÉ & LES HÉRITIERS
Last Recordings By The Renowned
Guitarist Of The Super Djata Band
Release date 9 July 2012
Also available as download
In December 2010, Zani Diabaté was in Paris putting the final touches to an album he'd been
recording in Bamako, Mali. With him were his son, the somewhat ironically nick-named “Papa” and
among others, “Baden” and “Vieux”, sons of musicians who had been with Zani since the 1960s when
together they'd formed Mali's first 'private orchestra'.
That Zani should be in such company when, sadly, so many of his friends and colleagues from
the six decades of his musical career had already died, says much about the man. It takes a special
kind of person with a unique musical ability to front a band through all the changing fortunes that
beset any popular group, let alone one based in a country that's among the world's poorest.
As a Diabaté, one of Mali's most renowned griot families, Zani had been schooled in not just
the kora and balafon but also dance and percussion, and perhaps his distinctive guitar playing
reflected this synthesis. Blistering solos with unpredictable and angular episodes identified him as
one of the region's great players with a style that, in some ways, was well-suited to European ears.
In the 1980s and at the helm of The Super Djata Band, Zani and his fellow musicians became
the toast of the Western concert circuit. As critic Robert Christgau put it: “Super Djata’s groove is
harder than Zairean soukous and fiercer than Senegalese mbalax” but with just one international
release in 1988 and amongst the whirlwind of 'world music' activity of that period, Super Djata found
it difficult to sustain interest beyond the immediate impact of their live performances, and so Mali
beckoned once again.
Here, for two decades, he played in the Bamako clubs and marquees with only the occasional
trip abroad as a member of the Ballet National du Mali. Yet he continued to teach and in this way
schooled a new generation of musicians. Which brings us back to that cold December day in Paris
where, according to reports, while entering the studio and with guitar strapped on in readiness,
he suffered a stroke, later dying in a Parisian hospital on the afternoon of January 5th, 2011.
It's a shame that there should be so few recordings of Zani Diabaté, particularly as those who
were lucky enough to have seen him and The Super Djata Band at those late-80s concerts still count
them as some of the best. But perhaps it's a fitting reminder that the story of African music should
not be viewed through the recording studio alone and, of course, it does make us value the few we
have, not least the final, poignant yet always powerful recordings of 'Tientalaw' ...
7 June 2012
NÓ NA ORELHA
Release date 25 June 2012
"possibly the most important figure on the Brazilian pop scene" Caetano Veloso
The child of migrants from the North East of Brazil to the commercial hub of São Paulo,
Kleber Gomes aka Criolo grew up in Grajaú (Zona Sul), one of the many shanty towns that
circle this modern megacity. A mud-floored shack with no running water was the start to
Criolo’s life on the flipside of Brazil, a tough urban environment that nevertheless has a sense of community he clearly cherishes. Using music to try to make sense of the city’s
crazed reality, Criolo does not claim to speak for everybody, he just wants to channel all that rage and hope and tell it like it is.
Writing his first song aged 11, hip hop was his first love but now at 36, Criolo's expression has developed an adventurous range without losing any of its intensity. The hard-hitting MC of the people remains, but added to this is the voice of a poet, singer and composer who reaches out to embrace afrobeat, samba and reggae as well as rap.
His new album Nó Na Orelha ('Knot In The Ear') is one of the most successful Brazilian
releases of 2011 and a remarkable break-through by an underground name to the
mainstream spotlight. Completely self-penned, it was produced by Marcelo Cabral and
celebrated Nação Zumbi producer Daniel Ganjaman (of the Instituto Collective). When the
three got together it quickly became apparent that Criolo’s notoriously prolific song-writing
could take the project to new dimensions beyond hip hop. The record was made with an
entirely independent ethos, there was no record label involved, and support came from
local not-for-profit arts collective Martilha Cultural. Made in an atmosphere of low-budget
solidarity and creative freedom, none of them knew they were about to cut one of the
albums of the year..
Nó Na Orelha takes the listener on
a nocturnal trip through sprawling São Paulo, Brazil’s hip hop capital, catching samba,
reggae and afrobeat sounding out from downtown bars, favela parties and car stereos. Nó
Na Orelha is a homage to that city, a visceral place buzzing with vision and energy, capable
of inspiring and destroying its citizens. And, certainly, the only place capable of producing
an artist like Criolo.
14 May 2012
Digital Release 8 May, 2012
Kerfala Kanté's history is longer than you might imagine. Born into a griot family in the Faranah region of central Guinea and coincidentally the same region in which Guinea's first president Sékou Toure was born, Kerfala joined the federal orchestra of that region, the Tropical Djoli Band, in 1980. His talent was soon spotted and in 1984 he was invited to join one of the great national orchestras, Balla et ses Balladins. Which he duly did.
Unfortunately the times were against him and while the group didn't exactly disband neither, in 1984, did it thrive. On March 26th of that year Sékou Toure suddenly died and all the state-sponsored orchestras, together with the musicians they employed, were thrown into disarray as a new president seized power. But Kerfala stayed the course and with the help of Guinean radio was eventually able to release his first solo cassettes.
Gradually building a reputation as one of Guinea's top male vocalists, the new millennium found his voice beautifully employed in the Sylla-produced 'Mandekalou' project, with further locally-released albums continuing under his own name until the most recent, 'Biyedi', recorded in Paris in 2011. Here, for one of his most relaxed and charming albums to date, he has been able to call upon some of the international musicians resident in this cosmopolitan city.
They include winner of the All-Ireland Fleadh for slow airs on the tin whistle in 1985, Michel Sikiotakis (not bad for a Frenchman of Greek extraction ...) here heard on the uilleann pipes; Pascal Mikaelian on harmonica and Julia Sarr, who started her musical career as an Afrobeat backing vocalist for Tony Allen. But however wide Kerfala casts his net, the roots of 'Biyedi' lie in the achingly beautiful harmonies and rolling rhythms of his native Guinea.
In the late 1980s and early 90s it could sometimes seem the women singers of Mali reigned supreme. In particular it was those of the Wassoulou region, an area in the south of Mali renowned for its music and strongly linked to the birth of the blues, whose voices were heard. In 1991 Sterns released their ground-breaking compilation 'The Wassoulou Sound – Women Of Mali' and World Circuit picked up the 200,000+ seller in West Africa, 'Moussoulou' by Oumou Sangare.
Diénéba (or Djeneba, as it was then and still sometimes is, spelt) Seck had to wait a few more years before her first release in the West but the wait, at least for her listeners, was worth it: a key track on vol. 2 of 'The Wassoulou Sound' and one that had become a nationwide hit in Mali as a pro-democracy anthem. As reviewed in The Wire: “There is so much humour, spirituality, and sheer gutsy energy ... If you haven't already let the Wassoulou women into your life, then now's the time."
Diénéba's voice is less strident and more accessible than some of her compatriots. In fact in the early 1980s she combined her singing with a career as an actress and stage comedienne. That all changed with the above hit song “Kankeletigui”, and often with her husband Sékou Kouyaté providing the arrangements, the recordings started to flow, including 'The Truth' released by Sterns in 2005.
In common with several other Wassoulou singers, Diénéba's lyrics frequently deal with social or political issues. But however romantic that notion might seem to a liberal intelligentsia in the West, the reality for the singer can be a lot more prosaic and, at times, difficult if not actually dangerous. “Ilabando”, the 3rd track on this album recorded in Bamako, Mali last year, is dedicated to the wife of the President. Unfortunately that same President, Amadou Toumani Touré, was ousted a coup in March just this year and, at the time of writing, is sheltering in a neutral embassy but is still in Bamako.
The future is unclear … but the music is beautiful and with it's unique grooves, distinctive stringed 'ngoni' and the bursts of grunge-like guitar, it deserves our attention.
Born into an illustrious family of musicians and storytellers, in the heady days of pre-independence
Guinea, Sory Kandia Kouyaté moved from the royal court of a local ruler to the urbane company of
revolutionary artists and future politicians until in 1958, the year of Guinea's independence, his
powerful, sonorous voice was at its peak.
The President and his government understood the value of this and Sory Kandia , in turn,
understood and embraced the revolution. He became the musical ambassador for his newly
independent nation and as the 'Voice of the Revolution' represented Guinea at the United Nations,
throughout Africa and behind the Iron Curtain.
Some might say that he was the right man in the right place at the right time, and there's surely an
element of luck in every successful artist's career. But it only works if you have what it takes, and
Sory Kandia undeniably had what it took. With a voice that could cut hair at a hundred paces, he
bridges the gap between the pre-recording era of singers we can only know about in stories, and
those such as Salif Keita and Mory Kanté who live in our digital files of today.
On this authoritative 2CD set we chart both sides of his music, the contemporary and the traditional,
to explain why today, almost four decades after his death, he is still the ultimate point of reference
for all West African griots.
Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane has become part of the very fabric of Senegalese
national identity. He was born 3rd February 1936 in Thiès, an area renowned both for its vibrant artistic activities and its
fierce resistance to colonisation. Championed by the inspirational president of Senegal's independence, Léopold
Sédar Senghor, Thiossane first come to pan-African attention when his song, “Talene Lamp Yi” was selected as the
radio theme for the historic and massively influential 1st Festival des Arts Nègres held in Dakar in 1966.
But his career had really started in 1952 when he joined a theatrical troupe, the Union Artistic du Thiès. Having
inherited from his father a love of Afro-Cuban music he went on to combine a career as a singer – not least with
Orchestra Baobab – with that as a painter, which skill he'd learnt by copying cinema posters. In the 1970s several of
his paintings sold for record-breaking prices in Senegal and are still today sought be collectors around the world.
Given all this, it is perhaps surprising that he's had to wait so long for an album to be released under his own name.
But today, aged 74 and under the able guidance of producer Ibrahima Sylla and arranger François Bréant, he has been
able to call upon some the great and good in Senegalese music to release an album truly worth waiting for.
Joined here with members of Orchestra Baobab, legendary Congolese guitarist Papa Noel and Africando's Medoune Diallo Thiossane is a rich addition to Senegal's Afro-Cuban musical heritage.
RUMBA, KOKA KOKA & KAMATA SUKUMA:
TANZANIA 1975 - 1980
14th November, 2011
The 2nd of January 1975 was a Thursday. Sometime that day, members of the Vijana Jazz Band from
Tanzania entered the Hi-Fi Studios at Pioneer House on Government Road in Nairobi, Kenya, and recorded
6 tracks under the pseudonym of the Koka Koka Sex Battalion. Along with Rumba, Kamata Sukuma (grab 'n'
push), Koka Koka was a style of music, but the band's name was a scam.
Vijana translates as 'youth' and refers to the group's sponsorship by Umoja wa Vijana, the youth wing of
Tanzania's ruling political party. Recently galvanized by the addition of singer/composer Hemedi Maneti, Vijana
Jazz were a successful group with many singles already available and the label, conscious of this, was keen not
to flood the market. The band on the other hand, with a trip from Tanzania that took at least a day and a night,
were keen to get paid as much as they could, and in Kenya they only got paid for what they recorded. Thus they
presented the 6 tracks as if by a new, hot and previously unrecorded band and the label, taking their eye off the
ball, handed over the cash.
It wasn't a particularly impenetrable scam, Koka Koka was known as the signature style of Vijana Jazz and
both “Koka Koka!” and “Sex Battalion!” were common shout-outs within their recordings. In addition the writers
credited on the session were known members of the group. But whatever exactly happened that day, 35 years
later we are the lucky beneficiaries as two of those cuts are grouped with other hits and rarities of Vijana Jazz to
give a fascinating glimpse of the unique energy that was East African music in the mid 1970s as performed by
one of the best bands of the time
Listening to many Congolese recordings of the last 25 years, it's not unusual to hear
peoples' names being called out by the vocalists or animateurs – members of the group
whose responsibility it is to get the crowd up and dancing.
Since his first production of Bozi Boziana back in 1982, from his base in Paris the
genial pipe-smoking Simon Kaluila has had more than his fair share of shouts. Not for
nothing is he nowadays introduced as “le professeur de producteurs" – the professor of
Indeed Msr. Kaluila has been a pivotal figure in Congolese music production almost
since the release of that first recording and many of today's big name artists, including
Pepe Kalle, Emenya and Koffi Olomide, got early breaks courtesy of Kaluila.
Beginning with two classics from Empire Bakuba, and including a quintessential album
from Papa Wemba, an 80s disco-infuenced hit from Emenya plus a rare gem from Stino-
Mubi, Sterns Music is proud to begin the process of making available digitally the fruits of
Mr. Kaluila’s almost 30 year career as the “professeur” producer of Congolese music.
For a limited period only, as a taster and to help you
navigate your way through what's on offer, we are giving away 2 free tracks from the catalogue starting with a choice cut from Viva la Musica and then a classic by Orchestre Bella Bella:
Born 1976 in Gambia, Dawda takes his traditional musical training from his Mande griot upbringing and with the help of long-term friends and band members, Preben Carlsen on guitar, Nana Osibio on bass and Salieu Dibba on percussion, creates an intense contemporary vision of an ancient tradition.
The word 'musicianship' only tells half the story. Too-often assumed, rarely understood and seldom fashionable, it is a key ingredient in the story of Dawda Jobarteh's debut album Northern Light Gambian Night. Dawda is the grandson of Alhaji Bai Konte, the son of Amadou Bansang Jobarteh and the nephew of both
Malamini Jobarteh and Dembo Konte. In the world of traditional Manding music, in particular that of the West African kora, these are serious calling cards not to be taken lightly.
Today in Denmark, Dawda has found his home and with its long and fruitful relationship with Jazz, Denmark has found Dawda. Over the two-year period it took to record this album, various musicians passing through Copenhagen agreed to contribute. Thus in the early hours of the morning after a gig and some schnapps, you have Linley Marthe, the last bassist to work with Joe Zawinul, performing a fabulous solo on “Karang Folo”; or Shashank Subrinayam, sometimes flautist with John McLaughlin, recording his exquisite flourishes on “Nkanakele”; or Etienne Mbape who did it just for fun because he liked the music; or Maria and Marie-Line
Marolany, whom Dawda first saw singing for Salif Keita … the list goes on.
Digitally available through Stern's Music from 18 July
'Ton Ton' (uncle) Mayala is a well-known figure in what the Africans resident in France
call 'le ghetto': the disparate citizens of a French colonial past, all huddled together in the
tougher quarters of the nation's urban centres. There with his car-boot open, one foot on
the kerb and an eye on the meter, he's as happy to sell you his latest production
personally, as he is to the shop to which he's supposed to be delivering.
And you'd be well-advised to buy it, in the fast changing world of soukous, ndombolo,
kwassa kwassa and all the other musical descendants of African rumba to have come out
of Kinshasa and the diaspora, the recordings can be here one day and gone the next.
Limited editions that satisfy an immediate demand, then give way to make room for the
next 'must have' track. Who knows, maybe it's your name that's shouted out between the
beats at the end of the track as the singers acknowledge their sponsors and fans?
In the years that 'Ton Ton' has worked this particular beat, he has amassed a number of
exclusive productions and licences that, taken together, go some way to documenting this
fertile yet too-often overlooked period of Congolese music from the 80s and through into
the 90s. A time when the old giants; Franco, Tabu Ley, Mbilia Bel, started to slow down
and the young guns; Zaïko Langa Langa, Koffi Olomide, Wenge Musica, Papa Wemba
and more, with their exclusive dress code and full-on dance music, began to take over.
For our part Sterns Music is proud to make available digitally, for the very first time,
some of FDB Records' quality catalogue. For a limited period only, as a taster and to help you
become acquainted with 'Ton Ton''s catalogue listen to a classic Zaiko Langa Langa track and Evoloko with old friend Papa Wemba joining on vocals :
Digitally available through Stern's Music from 20 June
Some time in the 1990s, the polite and softly-spoken Msr. Ngoya opened his shop.
On the 'wrong side' of the Boulevard Peripherique that surrounds central Paris, it was
away from main shopping areas of his compatriots and customers; the exiles, migrants,
workers, musicians and more from the vast and very troubled central African state, then
called Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Here he did what many from his ravaged nation had tried, he imported and distributed
cassettes, vinyl and CDs to supply the always ready market for Congolese music. Once
claimed as the private property of King Leopold II of Belgium, the Congo has had a brutal
and difficult history, yet its music is still one of the most vital and influential in the whole of
Soon Msr. Ngoya was licensing or producing music for release on his own label.
Well-liked and with a wide-ranging and discerning taste, over time he has managed to
release some of the jewels of Congolese music, among them at least one of this writer's
all-time favourites. Whether it's the smooth groove and plaintive vocals of Simaro Massiyo
Lutumba's classic “Maya” (yes, that's the one!), or the more energetic, sometimes even
frenetic sounds of Wenge Musica, Msr. Ngoya has shown an enviable artistic discretion.
For our part Sterns Music is proud to make available digitally, for the very first time,
some of Ngoyarto's quality catalogue. For a limited period only, as a taster and to help you
navigate your way through what's on offer, we have 3 tracks to sample from the catalogue - Le Poet Simaro, Koffi Olomide and Viva La Musica star Stino Mubi:
Still in her twenties and only two albums away from her debut , isn't that a little early to be doing 'the live' album?
Well ... no. Not if you have charisma and talent oozing from every pore. Not if the very essence of what makes you a “star”
lies in the moment of live performance, that nodal point when you give and the audience takes … and then gives back.
Since the release of her massively acclaimed debut album, 'Navega', in 2006, Mayra Andrade has undertaken a
touring schedule that would make even hardened professionals wince. Not content to sit back on comments such as “a true
star” The Daily Telegraph, “the new diva of Cape Verde” The Independent, “in which a young singer from the Cape Verde
islands eclipsed one of Africa's major stars” The Guardian; not content with a slew of 4 star reviews and winning the
Newcomer category in the BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music, Mayra set to work.
That work has taken her the length and breadth of Europe to Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Turkey and the USA.
Each venue, each perfomance adding to her store of knowledge and skill. And some of those venues were not exactly small.
Yet perhaps in common with many of the best performing artists, it's in the smaller more intimate venues where her flower
Studio 105, part of the Radio France complex in Paris, is one such venue and in the past has hosted concerts by
artists as diverse as Iggy Pop, the Arctic Monkeys and Brian Ferry. On the 9th of September, 2010 it was Mayra's turn ...
Please bear in mind the picture quality below will be far better when enjoyed from the DVD accompanying this release.
For nearly twenty years the Western Jazz Band and Dancing Club delighted East Africans. Formed in Dar es
Salaam in 1959, just two years before the end of British administration in Tanganyika, many of the original members
came from Western Province, hence the name.
It was both a band and a social club with the purpose of giving migrants to the city a place to meet friends and hear
good music. Over the years, things developed and by the early 1970s the band had a string of hit singles released
throughout Africa with even, in the early 80s, a compilation LP released in France (a cult album today).
Their saboso style was famous for its crisp clear guitar work. There was no thumping kick drum. Rather a
percussive stream from the congas, marvellously complex and interlocking guitars with occasional strumming on the
pickups. And the songs? Songs about love, infidelity, deceit, poverty and the strength and determination to overcome.
However, in common with many Western rock bands, Western Jazz had problems with their lead guitarists and
more than one fell prey to alcoholism and mental collapse though, in Western Jazz's case, the latter was attributed to
malevolent spells from rival bands. This story is perhaps reflected in the song titles of our album: from 'Rosa' or 'Amina
Finish Your Studies', to 'Bad Friends' and 'Calamity Has Dogged Me'. Songs of Happiness, Poison & Ululation …
Whichever way you look at it, Tabu Ley “Le Seigneur” Rochereau wrote great pop songs. He had a way with melody, the turn of a phrase, a catchy groove and a hook that just puts him up there with some of the world's best.
And he worked at it. Take 'Ekeseni', the track which opens our selection. Our version was only ever released in Zaïre on 45rpm. It's got an easy-going, proto-reggae groove and a loose, organic arrangement that draws you in. The more common and later album version - sadly spoiled by artificially dubbed applause - is a far more considered affair. Yes, Sgnr. Ley worked at his art.
In the years covered by these two CDs, he recorded landmark albums with his biggest rival, Franco; reunited with the Congo's greatest guitarist, Dr. Nico; discovered and nurtured the brightest female pop star in Africa, Mbilia Bel; signed with European and American labels; toured the world and then went into exile in France and America before returning to the Congo to join a new government
Picking up where Vol. 1 left off, The Voice Of Lightness Vol. 2 takes the story of this most social and welcoming of musics to its climax. Along the way we visit some of Tabu Ley's greatest hits and, after fierce negotiation with a Kinshasa street hawker, unearth at least one
of his rarest recordings. With comprehensive, intimately informed notes plus previously unseen photos, this album finally does justice to the career of one of Africa's most successful musicians.
The most comprehensive compilation of African music ever achieved, Africa
– 50 Years of Music collects 183 classic recordings by 183 important artists
from 38 countries in North, South, East and West Africa.
• The artists include universal stars such as Miriam Makeba, Fela Kuti,
Youssou N’Dour, Franco, Cheb Khaled, Cesaria Evora, Mulatu Astatke, Salif
Keita, Manu Dibango and Oum Kalsoum.
• The tracks, licensed from some of the world’s most respected record
companies, are all original studio recordings or, in a few cases, famous
concert performances. Most of them were made in the 50 years from 1960 to
2010 – the era of African independence – but two landmark Egyptian classics
date from the 1940s.
• Many of these songs are known and loved worldwide: ‘Pata Pata’, ‘Soul
Makossa’, ‘Yeke Yeke’, ‘Sweet Mother’, ‘Mario’, ‘Shakara’, ‘Jive Soweto’.
Others will be revelations to even the most dedicated record collectors.
• The deluxe longbox set includes a 76-page book of photographs, recordcover
reproductions, specially-commissioned artwork and essays by experts
on each of Africa’s popular styles. Pieces by Mark Hudson
(Daily Telegraph), Véronique Mortaigne (Le Monde), Patrick Labesse
(Le Monde), Francis Dordor (Les Inrockuptibles) Bouziane Daoudi
(La Libération), Daniel Brown, Daniel Lieuze and Leonardo da Silva
(RFI, French Radio).
• Anyone with serious interest in African music will recognize this set’s
extraordinary value. It will be the essential collection of African popular music
for the next 50 years.
THE KING OF HISTORY
12 June 2010
THE KING OF HISTORY
CLASSIC 1970S BENGA BEATS FROM KENYA
Release date: 12 July 2010
D.O. Misiani was Shirati Jazz … Shirati Jazz were D.O. Misiani: it was his band, he - in the nicest of ways - called
the shots and without him it simply would not have existed. Moreover without Daniel Owino a.k.a “Mwalimu” (teacher)
at the helm, benga, the energetic and hypnotically involving music of the Luo-speaking people of Kenya, would not be
where it is today. Misiani and Shirati were the first stars, their success set a standard that others could only follow.
Misiani wrote songs on all sorts of subjects, not least Love and Politics. Both got him into trouble; the first required
that he leave his village, the second that he go to prison. But he remained undaunted and unsilenced, and although
he didn't live to see the election of Barack Obama, we can imagine the fun he would have had with the fact that a Luo
man's son can become President of the United States, while the Presidency in Kenya has so far eluded any Luo, the
3rd largest language group of that country.their fans – Wenge Musica, Zaiko Langa Langa and more – but whose line-up seems to change as frequently as their clothes, always a vital ingredient of the scene.
In the first flush of ‘world music', the record labels did not ignore D.O. & Shirati and beginning with Discafrique in
1988, Globestyle, Earthworks and World Circuit (albeit without D.O. himself) all released recordings of this key group.
Rare though those albums may now be, Sterns are proud to add to the list and present, with comprehensive notes by
Doug Paterson, intimate photos and tracks mastered to their full-length for the first time, a selection of hits and
scarcities from 1973 – 1979: crucial years when Shirati’s series of hits defined the classic benga sound.
Welcome to the world of B.MAS PRODUCTION
4 May 2010
Welcome to the world of B.MAS PRODUCTION!
A digital only release for a limited period
Release date: 04 May 2010
B.MAS PRODUCTION are one the great untold stories of African music … and there’s more than a few of those!. Light years away from the carefully groomed, acoustically-orientated, coffee-table artists so beloved of some sections in the ‘world music’ media, is an industry that caters for the true requirements of its audience. It’s disparate, different and on the hoof. Albums recorded in one single session and mixed in another. Concerts that never start before midnight and have the crowd demanding refunds if they’re finished before dawn. Suitcases stuffed with product, traveling as hold luggage and sold, cash only, wherever there’s the demand: Geneva, Kinshasa, London, Lagos, Brussels, Accra, Washington DC … this is the real story of African music.
B.MAS PRODUCTION are one such label and, in their field, long established and well-respected. Their catalogue is rooted in the stylistic developments of Congolese rumba that continued to grow throughout Africa after the golden years of the 1970s and 80s: soukous, kwassa kwassa, ndombolo all played by groups whose names are legends to
their fans – Wenge Musica, Zaiko Langa Langa and more – but whose line-up seems to change as frequently as their clothes, always a vital ingredient of the scene.
The music is, at times, rough and raw. It rarely uses real horns where a keyboard patch will do. Obviously programmed drums, however, are less common and kit drums preferred wherever possible. Encouragements are frequently shouted out to the dancers because, if you don’t dance to this, you’re kind of missing the point. And it’s not all soukous and its derivatives: gospel, Ivorian takes on zouk, inward looking singer-songwriters or frenetic mutuashi(check Ngeleka Kandanda for some fine examples) all find a place in this catalogue..
Sterns Music are proud to represent B.MAS PRODUCTIONS and make their digital repertoire available for the first time ever.
The promotional offer has now finished but watch this space for future offers.
27 April 2010
Release date: 10 May 2010
Since The Very Best took their unique blend of Malawian vocals and Euro pop from the London club circuit to an international audience, a spotlight has shone on the city's burgeoning music scene … and one group has risen above all others.
A product of Brixton, Yaaba Funk are London's première 21st century new-Afro group. Ghanaian highlife, cut with a strong dose of afro-broken-beat and more than a hint of dub. Two infectiously energised vocalists, a horn section and the tightest rhythm section this side of Accra are underpinned by analogue bass and African guitar.
With their unique Afro sound Yaaba Funk have been setting dance-floors on fire since 2006 and along the way have built up a loyal fan-base. Supporters include the Shrine's Rita Ray and Max Reinhardt, DJ Ritu (BBC Radio London), DJ Russ Jones (Future World Funk),Miles Cleret (Soundway), with performances at the Barbican, the Shambala Festival, the Rise Festival in Finsbury Park, Jibbering Sessions in Birmingham, East London’s Passing Clouds and many more …
Sterns Music in association with Yaabaphone Records are proud to bring you the debut album of this freshest new group with their dynamic sound.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN SENEGAL
26 March 2010
Etoile de Dakar featuring Youssou N'Dour
"Once Upon A Time In Senegal - The Birth Of Mbalax 1979-1981"
Release date: 10 May 2010
There are not many African artists whose names are as well-known as Youssou N’Dour’s.
And it’s not just his ‘7 Seconds’ duet with Neneh Cherry, or his frequent collaborations with Peter Gabriel and others. No, you don’t reach his status just by who you hang out with, you get there by who you are and what you do.
On one level the 2CDs of ‘Once Upon A Time In Senegal’ form a chapter in the story of who Youssou N’Dour is and how he got there. But on another they show him simply as an equal member of a band … a band in the right place at the right time and doing the right things.
That brief but vital moment in time is captured in these 23 tracks selected from the cassettes that Etoile de Dakar recorded between 1979 and 1981. Several have never been released outside of Senegal, and all have been sensitively re-mastered from the earliest available audio source. These are the best sounding recordings of this material available … bar none!
For nearly thirty years, the "Wanyika" bands dominated Nairobi’s nightclubs and recording industry. Their music was propelled by light percussion and made sweet with a delicate interplay between rhythm and solo guitars.The sound was sparse, but a rich bass filled the gaps and on top were catchy melodies sung in a Swahili that could be easily understood across East Africa.
This was the defining sound of Kenyan Swahili rumba in the late 70s and early 80s, and Issa Juma was a pivotal figure in both creating and giving it new directions. His powerful baritone voice was indisputably the best of the Wanyika clan and, constantly experimenting, his style could change with each producer and session.
Carefully re-mastered, full-length recordings that include bona fide hits alongside rare, never-before-released tracks, this album is a long-overdue homage to a brilliant vocalist and band-leader, an innovative and accomplished musician who today is sadly missed.
CD now on general release plus download the album at
Mayra Andrade is smart, sassy and extremely talented. She was born in Cuba in 1985, but spent her earliest years in Cape Verde and has since lived, among other places, in Senegal and Angola. In 2001, while still a teenager, she won the gold medal at the French-speaking “Jeux de la francophonie” in Ottawa, Canada, before finally touching down in Paris, which proved the ideal location. In 2007/8 her debut album, “Navega”, won rave reviews and awards, including the ‘Preis der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik’ and a ‘BBC Award for World Music’. It has since sold more than 70,000 CDs and is still going strong.
“Storia, storia...” continues with a powerful Brazilian lilt. The basic ideas were defined in Paris with Cape Verdean multi-instrumentalist Kim Alvés, Cameroonian bassist Etienne M’Bappé and Brazilian percussionist Ze Luis Nascimento. Then under the guiding hand of producer Alê Siqueira, whose recent clients include Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso and Tom Zé, those ideas were developed in Brazil with, among others, percussionists at “Compania dos tecnicos”, a legendary samba studio in Copacabana and pianist André Mehmari in São Paulo. In Cuba, pianist Roberto Fonseca and tres player Pancho Amat came on board.
Because the relationship between Cape Verde - Mayra’s true home - and Brazil is profound. A true trade-wind experience, it goes beyond the common root language of Portuguese to reach into a deeper history and culture. “stória, stória…” is Mayra’s testament to that link and a permanent marker point for all future connections. And she’s still only in her 20s! Watch out world, Mayra’s on her way.
Francophonic Vol 2
12 October 2009
FRANCO & TPOK JAZZ
"FRANCOPHONIC VOL 2 1980-1989"
It is not possible to over estimate the importance Franco had to Congolese music and, through that, to all African music. The man was a giant - a "colossus" as his biographer called him - and deservedly so. For more than 3 decades he had been at the very core of the most successful pan-African music there has yet been. At the point of independence he had led 4 days and nights of celebration for the new nation. He had been thrown in prison. He had run large sprawling bands, sometimes 2 at a time and in different continents. He had held the presidency of the Union of Zairean Musicians. At some point, and with 14 different mothers, he had sired 18 children.
Over 2 CDs and 48 pages of comprehensive notes and rare photos, we bring to a climax the final 9 years of Franco's life: a time when he had some of his greatest hits, a time when he made some of his strongest statements and refused to compromise. It includes the superior, yet surprisingly rare, version of 'Mario', his searing indictment of the gigolo mentality and possibly his greatest hit. It includes tracks specially remastered and not previously released on CD. Building on the success of volume 1, Sterns are proud to present volume 2 in their labour of love:Francophonic series. If you have any interest in music whatsoever - this is absolutely essential listenting.
KISS MY NOOSE
14 July 2009
KELETIGUI ET SES TAMBOURINIS
"THE SYLIPHONE YEARS"
Whether it was with songs about incest and suicide, or through those praising a local fruit-juice company or even, due to a typographical error, with the marvelously titled “Kiss My Noose” (it should have been “Kiss My Nose”), Keletigui et ses Tambourinis were at the heart of Guinea’s state-sponsored musical explosion in the 1960s and 70s. They faithfully upheld the principles of authenticité espoused by Sekou Touré, first president of the newly independent nation, when he announced on the radio: “If one can’t play the music of one’s own country, then one should stop playing altogether”.
That instruction, however, did not apply to the music of Cuba or to jazz. On the one hand, in a Cold War world, Castro and Cuba were allies and on the other, both musics were played by black musicians, descendants of Africans and therefore considered as part of a greater African family. The resulting mix placed Guinea at the forefront of musical experimentation and helped set the scene for African music today.
Our 2CDs tell the story of Keletigui et ses Tambourinis from their first recordings as the ‘Orchestre de la Paillote’, through to their full flowering as they magnificently integrate national and international influences, right up to their swan-song recording of 1976 when, with personnel much changed, they made their final trip to the studio.
Sadly, Keletigui Traoré, the group’s founder and leader, died in November last year aged 74 and while the group may play on (every Saturday night at ‘La Paillote’ in Conakry!), his passing represents a huge loss. The music on these CDs is a testament to his unique energy… and a set of circumstances that perhaps can never be repeated.
2CDs that document - from their first to their final recordings - a unique group, time and place
assembled with the help of collectors worldwide, the album contains rare tracks never before available on CD
with full-colour, 44-page booklet, this is the last release in Sterns’ much-praised authenticité series of classic Guinean music
FINAL VOLUME OF THE 'BELLE EPOQUE' SERIES
6 April 2009
"BELLE EPOQUE VOL. 3: DIOBA"
This is the final piece in the anarchic jigsaw that is the story - as told by world-renowned producer and entrepreneur, Ibrahim Sylla – of Mali’s legendary Rail Band.
Once again we have the soaring guitars, impassioned vocals and long, compelling workouts such as “Wale Numa Lombaliya”, that were a trademark of this group. And again, in songs such as the chugging locomotive that is “Sinsimba”, we hear the powerful impact that Fela’s Afropop had throughout West Africa.
But now we also hear another side of this hard-working group; the jaunty pop of “Karitea”, an advert for skin cream, or the title track “Dioba” that with its ‘clip clop’ rhythm, sounds not unlike a Bollywood arrangement in one of the Hindi films so popular throughout Africa at the time.
Our 2CDs tell the story of Keletigui et ses Tambourinis from their first recordings as the ‘Orchestre de la Paillote’, through to their full flowering as they magnificently integrate national and international influences, right up to their swan-song recording of 1976 when, with personnel much changed, they made their final trip to the studio.
Because the Rail Band was never an ‘easy’ band, never a smooth, well-oiled machine that rolled irrevocably onwards carrying all before it. In fact, if this series reveals anything, it shows just how magnificently human the whole outfit was. Tensions between singers, confusion over direction, shambolic finances; yet maybe it was those very issues that made the group so good. Because make no mistake - in Mali, in the 70s, then the Rail Band was the band against which all others were measured. Listening to these recordings will tell you why.
3rd and final volume in the critically-acclaimed “Belle Epoque” series that tells a 13-year story – from 1970 to 1983 – of Mali’s legendary group
Lovingly re-mastered, the tracks range from epic workouts with soaring guitars and vocals (“Wale Numa Lombaliya”) to jaunty adverts for skin cream (“Karitea”) and, as such, give a true and compelling picture of African popular music
Compiled by Ibrahim Sylla; a producer and entrepreneur who himself has been responsible for some of Africa’s greatest recordings, these albums feature seminal performances by such stars as Salif Keita and Mory Kanté
Full-colour, 20-page booklet with notes detailing the history of the band and full-page reproductions of original album covers
GUINEA'S GENUINE DUELLING KORAS
9 March 2009
Ba Cissoko is the genuine article: born a griot with a musical lineage that stretches back centuries, Ba Cissoko, and his group of the same name, are as at home in the back-streets of Marseilles, France, as they are in the back-yard of the family compound in Conakry, Guinea.
Their vision of tradition is alive and vibrant; there are no off-the-shelf drum loops with sampled vocals, no sterile fantasies. If they hook-up one of their Koras to an effects peddle, or crank up the fuzz on a lead guitar, it’s because that’s what their music demands and because that’s what works.
And it works as well on stage as it does in the studio. Successful tours throughout the world as part of the African Soul Rebels package, or in support of Femi Kuti, have confirmed their status as one of the hottest African acts currently performing, and one that can reach all age-groups, without any need to explain who they are or where they come from.
“séno” is their 3rd album and in it the quartet are tight and fluid, with an organic approach to their music that just can’t be faked. Iberian and Latin influences have been absorbed, fuzz-guitar comes to the fore and a rolling bass keeps the whole thing pinned to the ground..
duelling koras and fuzz guitar – just some of the elements that go to make the unique sound of one of Guinea’s hottest contemporary exports
an acoustic quartet whose live performances are acclaimed throughout the world and that’s as tight as only a family-based group can be
3rd studio album that continues to explore new territories while building on the old
with audience that spans all ages, Ba Cissoko never lose touch with their roots
FRANCO & le TPOK Jazz - A Retrospective
10 November 2008
FRANCO & LE TPOK JAZZ
"FRANCOPHONIC: AFRICA'S GREATEST - A RETROSPECTIVE VOL. 1 (1953-80)"
From his first recordings in 1953 to his death in 1989, Franco Luambo (to use one of the many possible extensions of his name) dominated the music of sub-Saharan Africa in a way that is difficult to over-estimate. And the fact that he is still comparatively unknown in the world of ‘world music’ is a travesty of justice that these 2CDs, with their rare photos, thoroughly reasearched and eloquent notes, sets out to redress.
So why isn’t he better known outside Africa? One thing to keep in mind is that Franco didn’t need us. Simply put, he was popular enough within Africa not to have to worry too much about what went on outside the continent. In a rich world dominated by the English language, a francophone artist has to shout to be heard, and then when the western world finally did start to listen to this “Sorcerer Of The Guitar” from the Congo, this “Grand Maître” who composed, sang, played guitar and ran his band with equal vigour … he got sick and died.
2008 is the 70th anniversay of Franco’s birth, next year is the 20th of his death. Sterns celebrate the first and will honour the second with volumes 1 & 2 of “Francophonic – africa’s greatest – a retrospective”. On the 2CDs of volume one, 28 tracks, carefully selected from hundreds of songs, tell the story of Franco from his earliest years through to his first successes. It’s been a labour of love and a long time coming …but now it’s time to set the record straight!
before Youssou N’Dour, beyond Fela Kuti, and up there with Miriam Makeba; for Africa and Africans only Franco can truly be called “the greatest”
including rare photos, thoroughly researched and eloquent notes these 2CD sets are the first to treat this most important artist with the respect he deserves
with volume one in 2008 we celebrate the 70th anniversary of his birth; with volume two in 2009, we honour the 20th of his death
SINGER, COMPOSER & MASTER OF THE BOLON
7 September 2008
"CA VA SE SAVOIR"
Amadou Sodia is a central figure in the vibrant music-scene of today’s Guinea. Son of a poet, Amadou was born in the town of Fadama, close to the centre of present-day Guinea. He was born Amadou Doumbouya (the Sodia is taken from the name of a theatre company he co-founded in 1987) and it was still as a Doumbouya that he joined the Horoya-Band, one of the most popular groups in Guinea in the 70s and 80s, and later sang two songs on Ousmane Kouyate’s classic album of 1990, ‘Domba’.
While in demand for his mastery of the bolon (the 4-string instrument pictured on the cover of our album), it is as a singer and composer that he’s really made his mark. And on this album you can hear why. It positively drips with talent, not least Kante Manfila and Ousmane Kouyate (of Les Ambassadeurs and Salif Keita) on guitar, Djeli Moussa Diawara on kora, and Kerfala Kante & Sekouba Bambino on additional vocals. With its multi-layered arrangements that sensitively balance the electric with the acoustic, it is the perfect vehicle for a singer who is rooted in the past, yet singing for the present while looking to the future … ça va se savoir – ‘that will be known’.
2nd album from a central figure of today’s vibrant Guinean music-scene;
sensitive & acoustic-orientated production that drips with the cream of West African musical talent and can rank as one of Syllart’s best;
"a genuine classic" fRoots Magazine;
includes 2 bonus tracks taken from his 1st album.
BEAUTIFUL ERA, BEAUTIFUL MUSIC
7 July 2008
"BELLE EPOQUE - VOL. 2: MANSA"
Following on from our earlier, critically-acclaimed “Belle Epoque - Vol. 1: Soundiata”, with Vol. 2 we go much deeper. Not least into the 11 minutes 56 seconds epic title track “Mansa” featuring Mory Kanté, or the formidable “Kaïra” which showcases Djelimady Sissoko, a singer critical to the Rail Band’s story, but one who has rarely received the attention he deserves.
Because – even though it was the proving ground for singers the stature of Salif Keita and Mory Kanté – the story of the Rail Band has never been the story of just one member. Nor is it a story of a band with just one style: the great rolling, savannah rhythms are still here, as well as the beautifully hypnotic progressions that give the music of this region so much power even today.
But in their residency in the hotel by the railway station, where “a motley crew of businessmen… French and Chinese, Lebanese and German, Russians and Arabs” rubbed shoulders with the locals and “the nightlife was bubbling”, more than a few pan-African influences crept in, and on this album we find the Rail Band’s marvellous interpretation of, for example, Fela’s ‘Afrobeat’ on “Dugu Kamaleba” or, on “Konowale”, of Congolese rumba guitar.
The Rail Band truly was greater than the sum of its parts… and its parts were the best!
vol. 2 of the critically-acclaimed “Belle Epoque” series;
reveals the story of the Rail Band, a critical group in the careers of both Salif Keita and Mory Kanté;
compiled by Ibrahim Sylla; legendary producer & entrepreneur who later went on to produce Salif Keita’s world-wide hit “Soro”;
full-colour, 20-page booklet with notes detailing the history of the band plus full-page reproductions of original album covers.
THE INTELLECTUALS OF GUINEAN MUSIC
5 May 2008
BALLA ET SES BALLADINS
"THE SYLIPHONE YEARS"
At first they were known as the ‘Orchestre du Jardin de Guinée’ after the name of their regular venue, a bar in Conakry that is still open for business today. But gradually people called them ‘Balla’ - after their leader Balla Onivogui – ‘et ses Balladins’.
Then a spat with a government minister saw Balla sacked as leader and replaced by his friend, Pivi. So they became ‘Pivi et les Balladins’. But when Sékou Touré, the President, heard about this, his indignant “Since when?” meant Balla was quickly reinstated.
Such were the perils of state employment for musicians. But what music they made! Guinea’s policy of authenticité, with musicians looking to their own roots for inspiration, witnessed a glorious flowering of African music, and ‘Balla et ses Balladins’ were one of the best. Known as the “intellectuals of Guinean music”, their range of material was vast and incorporated elements from local Malinké and Fula traditions, as well as Cuban music and jazz. They toured widely and were an orchestra to which others aspired.
These 2CDs were assembled with the help of collectors the world over and include some of their rarest recordings along with their greatest hits - not least the classic “Sara ‘70”, the independence anthem “Kaïra” or their swansong recordings “Bamba” & “Paulette”. They are a unique and compelling record of a very special time for African music.
from a period when Guinea was at the forefront of African music, these 2CDs document one of the nation’s most inventive and influential groups;
assembled with the help of collectors worldwide, the release contains rare tracks never before available on CD, along with the essential classics of their repertoire;
full-colour, 44-page booklet featuring reproductions of rare singles and album covers as well as expert and detailed notes on Guinean music.
27 March 2008
One of the most authentic voices of Cape Verde, Titina was singing in the lap of the grand master of Cape Verdean music, B.Leza, when she was just 6 years old. By the age of 12 she was performing in public and being broadcast on radio stations and at 15 she recorded her first single. In 2006 she was decorated by the government of Cape Verde for her contribution to its culture.
Her voice is one of the finest of the so-called 'saudade Cabo-Verdiana', or Cape Verdean nostalgic yearning, able to convey perfectly the romantic sensibility of the 'moonlit singers' of Mindelo. Like her famous contemporary Cesaria Evora, she expresses this within the poetic form of morna; though her vocal pitch and purity offer a very different interpretation.
'Cruel Destino' presents this long-lost voice of Cape Verde in an intimate recording with legendary instrumentalist Bau. Together they interpret songs of morna composed by poets who speak of requited and unrequited love, of departure and returning home, and of nostalgic longing for their beloved homeland. They are romantic echoes from an era when seeing one's loved one was truly difficult. This, then, is the world of the Cape Verdean morna.
"Cut from the finest Evoran cloth… Cesaria aficionados should definitely hunt out this CD" **** Songlines
"A delightful blend of gorgeous retro melancholy sung as clear as the blue of the African sky" Music Week
ALL-WOMEN, ALL-ARMY, ALL-AFRICAN
25 February 2008
Les Amazones De Guinée
In the early 60s, this group played 'unplugged': mandolin, violins, double-bass, bongos and congas were the tools of their trade… that is, when they weren’t carrying rifles, pistols and machine guns. Because ‘Les Amazones de Guinée’ were originally ‘l’Orchestre féminin de la Gendarmerie de Guinée’ and as such were all serving officers and soldiers of the Guinean militia. They still are.
By the late 60s they had added electric guitars, kit drums and a horn section and, now officially known as ‘Les Amazones de Guinée’, were touring all over Africa bringing their particular brand of joy to the cause of African women’s emancipation. They triumphed at the legendary ‘Festac’ of 1977 held in Lagos and, five years later, recorded their 2nd album (1st as ‘Les Amazones’), “Au cœur de Paris”.
Between that and “Wamato” is a cool 25 years but things move slowly in Guinea and, as is the way of these things, there have been retirements and deaths, notably of original saxophonist Fatou Soumah and ‘La Reine des Amazones’, guitarist Nyépou Haba. But ‘Les Amazones’ are nothing if not tenacious and bolstered by new blood and under the direction of bass-player, Commandant Salématou Diallo, the surviving members took the long mini-bus trek from Conakry in Guinea to Bamako in Mali, there to lay down their guns and record in the same studio as Ali Farka Touré, Damon Albarn, Oumou Sangaré and many more.
The flowing, loping rhythms so particular to Guinea; the harmonic cycles that mesmerise and seduce; the vocals, sometimes sweet, sometimes strident but always full of conviction; is there any other band like ‘Les Amazones’? As the cry at the beginning of this album attests - “Retour en force des Amazones!” (The Amazones - back with a vengeance!) – these women demand to be heard.
all-women, all-army, all-African: ‘Les Amazones de Guinée’ are utterly unique
formed 46 years ago, they are an enduring symbol of African woman’s emancipation
a national institution, yet “Wamato” is only their 3rd recording – and only their 2nd under the name ‘Les Amazones de Guinée’
tight yet fluid, after 25 years it is an amazing return as ‘Les Amazones’ are indeed “back with a vengeance!”
MBILIA BEL'S GOLDEN YEARS: 1982-87
19 November 2007
When Tabu Ley Rochereau decided to add another singer to his retinue in 1981, he can't have anticipated how successful she would become. As he watched Mbilia Mboyo on a popular TV music show, tucked away on backing vocals for another act, perhaps he thought she could be just another singer that would join for a few years and then one day go, unmourned by a public always wanting what's next.
If so, he was wrong. With her name changed to Mbilia Bel, they recorded the duet "Mpeve Ya Longo". It was an instant hit with the Kinshasa crowd and also in Nairobi, Kenya, where she made her concert debut as featured singer with 'Afrisa International'. By the middle of 1982, the buzz about Mbilia was a roar and she was hailed as the country's brightest new star.
They went on to marry and, for Tabu Ley's new label, Genidia, record a string of hits that help define the sound of an era. And not just for central Africa. From those very earliest concerts, East Africa always held a passionate fan-base and Mbilia's recordings reached South, West and out into the African diaspora beyond. She also touched a nerve in the women of her audience and to this day there is something about Mbilia Bel that gains that audience's loyalty.
However the partnership, indeed the marriage, between Mbilia and Tabu Ley lasted only until 1988, when they parted ways and Tabu Ley introduced his next female discovery, Faya Tess. Mbilia moved to Paris and then on to the States but, as fashions changed, so has her music. She has never quite found the same run of success as on those key recordings from the 80s. These 2CDs contain those tracks and tell that story.
crucial recordings of Mbilia Bel, the queen of Congolese music and one of the most popular pan-African stars throughout the 1980s
selected from Tabu Ley's 'Genidia' label by Gerald Seligman with additional notes by Ken Braun, these recordings represent an artist at the peak of her career
includes a bonus track, the hard-to-get single version of "Mpeve Ya Longo" - the recording that started her career
full-colour, 44-page booklet with detailed notes, lyric translations, a discography and rare photos
"CONGO'S KING OF RUMBA"
18 November 2007
"LA BONNE HUMEUR"
"Thousands of fans have taken to the streets of the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital to mourn Madilu System, known as 'Congo's King of Rumba'." BBC NEWS
Released in Africa in July, Sterns were preparing La Bonne Humeur for its international release when, on August 11, we received the stunning news the Madilu System had died in a Kinshasa hospital. Although diabetic, he had appeared to be in good health and his unexpected death has grieved fans throughout the world with a loss not felt since Franco's own death 18 years ago.
Jean Bialu Makiese - or, as Franco dubbed him, "Madilu System" - was the wistful, high voice that featured in so many T.P.O.K. Jazz records of the 1980's: 'Mario', 'Tu Vois? (Mamou)', 'La Vie des Hommes' and many, many more. After Franco's death, Madilu's solo album of 1994, sans commentaire, confirmed him as one of Franco's mos accomplished proteges, not just as a singer but also as a composer and lyricist.
And he was always a favourite with other Congolese artists. Papa Wemba and Mbilia Bel both asked him to sing with them, and last year he joined Kekele for one of the highlights of their album Kinavana and, with Africando, reprised 'Mario' in a stellar cameo.
Although his voice was no longer so high, Madilu was now singing better than ever and recorded La Bonne Humeur in the spring of 2007. Featuring guitarists Syran Mbenza, Caien Madoka, Fofo le Collegien, Dally Kimoko and Papa Noel, the are 8 songs written by Madilu and 2 by old friends Nyboma and Wuta Mayi. La Bonne Humeur has been hailed by The Beat magazine as the best album to date and proof that soukous is alive and wll in the 21st century.
one of the best and most beloved Congolese singers of the past 25 years
featuring singing on key recordings by some of the greatist African bands including the legendary Franco & TPOK Jazz, Africando and Kekele
rich, luxurious and melodious - La Bonne Humeuris one of Madilu System's best recordings ever and proof of the continuing importance of Congolese music
TOP WORLD MUSIC LABEL 2007!
17 November 2007
A GENUINE STAR IN THE MAKING!
26 September 2007
"if you liked Buena Vista Social Club and would like another that you can play ... while sitting in the sun with the windows open, here it is." Charlie Gillett
Picked as the opening act for Cesaria Evora, asked to record with Charles Aznavour - or perhaps more credibly - Chico Buarque and Lenine, the word was definitely out on Mayra Andrade before she got even her first sniff of a record deal. Still only 22, this absurdly talented singer, songwriter and performer has taken Europe by storm with her debut album: Navega.
A beautiful, amazingly mature voice with subtle, addictive songs that have immediate impact yet reveal their depths the more you listen, are all pulled together in a sensitive production by Jacques Ehrhart, producer for, among others, Camille. Is it any wonder that Mayra has been acclaimed across continental Europe? Among many accolades she was most recently awarded the prestigious Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (German Record Critics Award), previously received by Mariza, and currently has a touring schedule that would make strong men weak.
With Senegal on one side and Brazil on the other, the islands of Cape Verde have an astoundingly rich musical culture and new singers are not uncommon. Many are compared to each other, but only one is compared to Cesaria. Sterns Music are proud to release the stunning, debut album Navega from that very person: Ms. Mayra Andrade.
acclaimed throughout Europe, the debut album from Cape Verde's most exciting new artist
rootsy and rooted yet cosmopolitan and contemporary, Mayra Andrade is the sound of today, a true heir of Cesaria Evora
produced by Jacques Ehrhart (Camille, Henri Salvador and more...) Navega easily seduces yet does not fade upon repeated listening
still only 22, Mayra Andrade is a genuine star in the making
AN AFRO-LATIN ORIGINAL!
21 September 2007
Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca
Isabela is the fifth album from Ricardo Lemvo, the Congo-born Angolan singer-composer, with his Los Angeles-based Makina Loca.
Recorded in three countries (the US, Canada and France), this seemingly effortless album is the product of much hard work and knowledge.
Its cosmopolitan bouquet of musical styles (including soukous, son, boogaloo, bolero, rumba-rock, Congolese rumba and charanga-rap) is sung in six languages, each with its own distinct musicality.
Besides Portuguese, Kikongo, Spanish, Lingala and Swahili, Lemvo learned to sing in Turkish for his version of Candan Ercetin's "Elbette", which he turns into a tango congo. Invited stars include Congolese guitar legend Papa Noel (on four numbers, including the title song) and singers Wuta Mayi and Nyboma, and the Cuban Alfredo De La Fe on violin and cello. Arranging duties were likewise split between Congo (Bopol Mansiamina) and Cuba (Jesus A. Perez "El Nino").
It all flows like one piece of music.
Isabela's repertoire ranges from '50s Congo classic "Lollobrigida" (written by guitarrist Tino Barozo in honour of Italian movie star Gina Lollobrigida), to the album's centrepiece, "Serenata Angolana", a duet with Cape Verdean songstress Maria de Barros.
"...just plain hot - Lemvo's best album yet." - World Music Central
"...Lemvo maintains his standing as an Afro-Latin original." - Afropop Worldwide
"...absolutely stunning - one of the most entertaining albums of 2007." - The Beat Magazine
TABU LEY'S GOLDEN YEARS: CONGO CLASSICS 1961-77
20 August 2007
Tabu Ley Rochereau
"THE VOICE OF LIGHTNESS"
If 'Franco & TPOK Jazz' were the Rolling Stones... then 'Tabu Ley Rochereau' is the Beatles or, at the very least, is Paul McCartney. Songwriter, singer, talent scout, music-publisher, record-company executive and even, most recently, a politician - it's clear he's one of the Greats.
Originally dubbed 'Rochereau' because he was the only one in his class who could identify a certain French hero as Colonel Pierre Denfert-Rochereau, the 'Tabu Ley' was gradually added as Congo's own 'Authenticite' programme got underway.
And it's at this period that our 2CD compilation catches him - the golden years from the very early 60s through to the late 70s when he wrote some of his finest songs and gave some of his greatest performances. A time when he was as happy to write jingles for OMO soap powder (Savon Omo - CD1), as he was unafraid to experiment with extended workouts and let his band have its way (e.g. Adeito - CD2 - parts 1 & 2 reunited here for the first time since they were recorded).
These 2CDs are a confection of African pop at its very best; melodic, vibrant, beautifully crafted and while well aware of what was going on in the rest of the world - not least the rest of Africa - securely anchored in that mainstream of African music, Congolese rumba. And, above it all, floats the voice of Tabu Ley Rochereau, the voice of lightness...
key recordings from one of Africa's greatest songwriter, singer and band-leaders
Congolese popular music at its very best - catchy, melodic and self-assured
includes hits plus rare recordings never before released on CD
full-colour, 44-page booklet with fascinating and detailed notes plus rare photos
BEMBEYA JAZZ NATIONAL: ONE OF AFRICA'S GREATEST BANDS
13 August 2007
Bembeya Jazz National
"THE SYLIPHONE YEARS - HITS AND RARE RECORDINGS"
"Guinean music was the avant-garde of African music... it was like the lighthouse to music in Africa."
Fetede by presidents, lauded with awards and prizes - not many groups in the world can boast such a legacy. The story of Guinean popular music is so closely tied to the story of Bembeya Jazz that the two are virtually inseparable.
Formed in 1961 and still playing today, Bembeya Jazz National perfected a sophisticated blend of indigenous musical styles, Congolese influences, Islamic traditions and genuine Cuban rumba. During the 1960s and 70s, the period covered by this compilation, they toured widely in Africa, made occasional visits to Moscow to consolidate Soviet-Guinean ties, and were one of the few African bands to visit Cuba.
"Bembeya Jazz National - The Syliphone Years" covers 27 tracks in chronological order, from their first single, "Republique Guinee", a celebration of Guinea's independence, to "Petit Sekou", one of their last recordings for the Syliphone label.
new re-packaged edition: 2 CDs + 44-page illustrated booklet
now featuring 27 songs - recorded for Guinea's legendary Syliphone label at the height of their creative powers
heaps of hits, plus several songs never before released on CD
THE CLASSIC GUINEAN GUITAR GROUP
16 July 2007
Acoustic African guitar playing at its most intimate and beguiling
"THE CLASSIC GUINEAN GUITAR GROUP"
One moment you think it's Spanish, the next you are convinced it is from Peru, until, hearing echoes of Django Reinhardt, you decide on Paris. But each time you are wrong! The group of acoustic guitars featured on this album is 100% African, with roots firmly embedded in Guinean folklore.
The classic instrumental recordings, made between 1970 to 1983 and long-prized by collectiors, feature the African Virtuoses, a group that, in its various incarnations, introduced one of the most illustrious guitar-playing families in Africa, the Diabate Brothers.
These tracks reveal acoustic African guitar playing at its most intimate and beguiling.
classic instrumental recordings that showcase the gorgeous acoustic guitars of the legendary Guinean group: African Virtuoses
beautifully re-mastered editions of hard-to-obtain tracks, long-prized by collectors
historic music - yet one that is as valid and relevant today as when first recorded in the 70s and early 80s
full-colour, 20-page booklet with detailed notes and full-page reproductions of the original albums
MALI'S BELLE EPOQUE
9 July 2007
Volume 1 of three double CDs that tell the story - from 1970 to 1983 - of a band that can truly proclaim its greatness
"BELLE EPOQUE VOLUME 1: SOUNDIATA"
These 2 CDs take you back to a time before 'world music'; before the music of Mali, Senegal, Guinea and other regions of the Sahal, had much of an audience beyond their own borders. To a time when, as the liner notes put it, a penniless Salif Keita was "still plucking his old Chinese guitar under a tree, forlorn and desperate, lamenting the human condition..."
But the Bational Railways Of Mali had their hotel by the railway station in the heart of Bamako city and "a motley crew of businessmen had flooded Bamako: French and Chinese, Lebanese and German, Russians and Arabs... the nightlife was bubbling". Into this nightlife, and for the 'Buffet Hotel', a band was formed. Their first singer was Salif Keita, their second, Mory Kante. How good can it get?!.
Here we have a slice of history - the first recordings of artists and a music that went on to help change the way that African music was perceived outside of Africa. Great languid rolling epics, or short intense bursts of fervour - it's all here in the crucible of the 'Rail Band'.
includes the earliest recordings of Salif Keita and Mory Kante - singers that went on revolutionize African music in the West
compiled by Ibrahim Sylla; legendary producer, entrepreneur and man who knows this music like no other - he was there!
full-colour, 20-page booklet with notes detailing the history of the band plus full-page reproductions of the original albums covers
THE AUTHENTIC SOUND OF INDEPENDENT GUINEA
7 May 2007
28 essential tracks from the Syliphone archives including rare material never before released on CD
"AUTHENTICITE: THE SYLIPHONE YEARS (1965-80)"
When the French colonial administration pulled out of Guinea in 1958, they took everything: all their medicines, blueprints to the electricity grid, furniture, telephones, even the cutlery. It seemed that the passionate cry of soon-to-be president, Sekou Toure - made while addressing a public rally and standing right next to De Gaulle - of "We prefer freedom in poverty to riches in chains" had become more true than perhaps even he had hoped.
Undaunted and with optimism and vigour, the new government set about rebuilding the country. They established a campaign that encouraged artists to create new works, but based on traditional African roots. The policy was called authenticite, music was its focus and Syliphone its record label. Thus Syliphone found itself in the right place at the right time - a special moment in African history when a new nation asserted itself and placed music at the forefront of its identity.
This 2CD set "Authenticite - the Syliphone Years" features gems from their catalogue, most of which are on CD for the first time, and gives you an insight into the incredible energy of the times. All the great bands are here, with key songs from such legendaries as Bembeya Jazz National, Keletigui et ses Tambourinis, and Balla et ses Balladins. Also here are rare recordings from their contemporaries such as Syli Authentic, and Kebendo Jazz; groups that battled for honours against more than 30 others in Guinea's renowned arts festivals, where a 1st Prize could launch a band to stardom.
Times like these can't last - and they didn't. But while they did, the party was jumping and the music was glorious.
2CDs + a 44-page illustrated booklet
comprehensive notes by renowned expert on Guinean music: Graeme Counsel
includes some of the most important recordings together with rare and previously unreleased tracks
KETUKUBA - ANOTHER HOT ALBUM FROM AFRICANDO
30 October 2006
Africando, the Afro-Salsa supergroup is back. Fourteen years after the historic first meeting of the best singers from Senegal and the best Latin musicians in New York, "Ketukuba" , their seventh album is ready. The thrill you felt when you first heard Africando is still there!
"Ketukuba" is a tribute to the late Gnonnas Pedro, Benin's favourite son, who sang with Africando from 1996 until his death in 2004. The title song, was his last recording.
Medoune Diallo, who earned his reputation with Orchestre Baobab before casting his lot with the nascent Africando in 1992, sings a duet with his son, Lodia Mansour, a rising star in Senegal today.
This album also introduces two other young but already seasoned Senegalese singers to Africando's worldwide fans: Pascal Dieng of Super Cayor and Basse Sarr of Orchestre Afro-Salsa de Dakar.
Africando stalwarts Amadou Ballake and Sekouba Bambino are in top form.
American salsero Joe King gives a rendition of "Nina Nina" that may well become the definitive version of the Fania All-Stars classic.
Congolese star Madilu System joins Africando for a sparkling Latinate version of "Mario", the landmark hit he originally recorded with Franco's T.P.O.K. Jazz in 1985. And he sings it even better now!
Nelson Hernandez, who has worked with Kekele as well as with Celia Cruz, Oscar D'Leon and many other Latin stars, wrote arrangements that allow such top-tier musicians as pianist Junito Davila, trumpeter Gazo Jaime and percussionists Roberto and Luis Quintero to shine.
As always, producer Ibrahima Sylla brings extraordinary talents together and elicits brilliant performances from them.
23 October 2006
BA CISSOKO "Electric Griot Land"
Two kora players, cousins from an ancient griot family. One, Ba Cissoko himself, plays in the traditional, intricate, acoustic style. The other, Sekou Kouyate, has customised his instrument, electrified it, added effects pedals. He even plays it behind his head, just like Jimi Hendrix.
Just like Jimi Hendrix set fire to the blues, modernized them, transgressed them, but still honoured them, Ba Cissoko (the band) set fire to, yet still honour, the Mandingue tradition.
To promote Sabolan, their trail-blazing debut album, Ba Cissoko took on a massive European tour 2004, including UK dates at Womad, Africa Oye and Momo's.
Their hard work paid off - they won many new friends and they were nominated as best newcomers in the 2005 BBC World Music Awards.
Electric Griot Land, the storming follow-up album, features special guest appearances from
K'Naan, the Somalian rapper known as the Dusty-Foot Philosopher
Amadou Bagayoko of Amadou & Mariam
Tiken Jah Fakoly, Ivorian reggae star
Les Nubians, Afropean hip-hop laydees
"A delight, and a marker for 21st century African music" THE OBSERVER
MIDNIGHT IN MALI
24 April 2006
Various Artists "MIDNIGHT IN MALI"
featuring Habib Koite, Keletigui Diabate, Djelimady Tounkara...
Malian musicians are renowned for their spontaneity. Anyone who has explored Bamako’s intimate musical settings - street weddings, courtyard jam sessions and evening concerts at open-air "cultural spaces" where anyone might show up - knows this. And yet the jam session is a side of the music rarely heard in the polished studio recordings that have put this West African musical colossus on the map in recent years.
This extraordinary concert, recorded at Bamako’s French Cultural Centre on 23rd December 2004, rights the balance, revealing the personalities, humour and improvisational mastery of some of the country’s finest musicians interacting in a once-in-a-lifetime formation.
The line-up is remarkable for the calibre of musician present, the range of styles represented and the ease with which the artists traverse borders to make gorgeous, free-flowing music together.
Midnight in Mali is that rare occasion when musical giants dare to risk the new, rely on their wits, and freely explore their shared heritage: the majestic, matchless variety of Malian music.
THE CHAMPS PAY TRIBUTE TO CUBA
23 January 2006
For their 3rd album Kekele retrace their musical path back to the classic Cuban songs that were the source and inspiration of Congolese rumba.
Kekele’s third album Kinavana pays tribute to the music of Guillermo Portabales. It comprises 12 songs that Portabales composed or recorded. In place of the original Spanish lyrics, the Kekele singers have written new Lingala lyrics that are decidedly not translations from Spanish.
“BaKristo”, for example, is based on the music of “El Carretero”, but instead of telling a wagoner’s tale it denounces the efforts of evangelical churches in Africa to ban all music that is not Christian.
The arrangements are also new, devised by Syran Mbenza and Papa Noel (back with Kekele after a hiatus forced by illness) with Nelson Hernandez, the Venezuelan arranger best known for his work with salsa stars like Celia Cruz and Oscar D’Leon.
With charanga flutes and violins on some pieces, sexteto-style trumpets or funky saxophone solos on others, and Congolese guitars throughout, Kekele’s sound is quite different from that of Portabales and his trio or quartet.
The sax soloist on five pieces is the one and only Manu Dibango. His participation in this project brings his wide-ranging career full circle, for Dibango played with Grand Kalle’s Orchestre African Jazz at its peak in the early 60s.
For the music of Kinavana, like the title combining Kinshasa and Havana, is both Congolese and Cuban.
Rumba Cubano or rumba Congo, it’s all rumba.
EGYPT – INDIA – SENEGAL
15 August 2005
Thione Seck, the great Senegalese songwriter and singer travels eastward to Egypt and India and returns with a masterpiece.
THIONE SECK "ORIENTATION"
Former member of Star Band de Dakar and Orchestra Baobab, Thione Seck has been an important figure on Senegal’s music scene since the 1960s. In the late 70s and early 80s Seck was one of the originators of mbalax, which has been Senegal’s most popular sound since then.
His cassettes were huge hits in the local market, and eventually his music reached Europe and North America. With his new album, Thione Seck not only confirms his place among Senegal’s greatest artists but also leads international audiences in new directions.
Seck was always a fan of Egyptian superstars such as Abdel Halim Hafez and Oum Kalsoum as well as Bollywood playback singers Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. These singers have influenced his singing style, sometimes subtly, sometimes in a more obvious way.
Recorded between 1999 and 2002, Orientation was produced by Ibrahima Sylla and François Breant, both of whom were on board Salif Keita’s trailblazing Soro. More than 40 Egyptian, Indian, French and Senegalese musicians were involved in the ambitious and unprecedented project that resulted in Orientation.
Thione Seck may not yet be as well known to the world at large as his countrymen, Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal or Ismael Lô, but in Senegal he is regarded as the most poetic songwriter and the greatest singer of them all. His new album, recorded in Dakar, Paris, Cairo and Madras, will undoubtedly raise his international profile and compel audiences far and wide to re-orient their notions of Senegalese – and world music.
“a long-awaited and profoundly fabulous album...one of the most ambitious projects to come out of Africa in recent years”
Lucy Duran, SONGLINES
“Orientation is a wide-screen epic of operatic intensity.”
Howard Male, THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
JUST RIGHT FOR THOSE HOT SUMMER NIGHTS!
18 July 2005
When white suits where ‘cool’ and Zairean music was at its hottest
From “Double Double” to “Amba”. Ten of Nyboma’s greatest hits, from 1981 to 1985, on one CD!
From “Double Double” to “Amba,” the recordings that singer and songwriter Nyboma Mwan’dido made with his band Kamale Dynamique in the early 1980s are now classics: the best representation of an exciting historic era when Congolese music became pan-African and went on to win fans around the world.
De “Double Double” a “Amba”, tous les albums enregistres par l’auteur/compositeur Nyboma Mwan’dido avec son orchestre Kamale Dynamique au debut des annees 80 sont aujourd’hui consideres comme des classiques. Ils marquent l’epoque historique et exhaltante de la musique congolaise qui est alors devenue panafricaine et qui continua son chemin au-dela du Continent a la conquete d’un public international.
1. Double Double
2. Papy Sodolo (from the LP “Double Double” - 1981)
4. Ban Gula-Ban Gula (from the LP “DeDe” – 1982)
6. Pepe Bougier (from the LP “Pepe” – 1983)
7. Coeur A Coeur
8. Aicha Motema (from the LP “Coeur a Coeur” – 1984)
10. Amba (from the LP “Bandona” – 1985)
DIENEBA SECK "THE TRUTH"
19 April 2005
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE
Dieneba Seck was born in Bamako, but her family’s roots are in Kita, a town famous for its music. She is not a griot, though; her father was a nurse and her mother a midwife.
She was a shy young girl and at an early age found that acting gave her the opportunity to confront her timidity by joining the artistic and cultural groups of her district. Contrary to the experience of many Malian artists she was positively encouraged by her parents, who doubtless sensed a hidden talent.
Very quickly Dieneba revealed herself to be an excellent ‘comedienne’. And in 1984 she bought home the trophy for best soloist and took part in the bi-annual artistic and cultural show of her district. Such was her success that she dropped her studies in favour of an artistic career. In 1986 she met Sekou Kouyate, one of her admirers, and he immediately took her on as a backing vocalist for his band. The combination of his hard work and her beautifully pure voice helped them make their mark on the Malian music scene.
Kouyate’s group went from strength to strength and were soon recorded for Malian television, then in its infancy. Their hit song that flooded the airwaves was ‘N’Kadignon Ye’. The jubilation was short lived for Dieneba as the success of the record led to the inevitable migration to France for bandleader and lead vocalist Sekou. Far from being discouraged, however, she picked herself up and rediscovered her first love – the theatre. She also continued to rehearse with the Bamako district orchestra and, together with Ana Hather, a member of the US Peace Corps, participated in the production of an album to raise awareness about the hazards of dysentery and associated illnesses.
Dieneba’s first solo recording was made in 1991 in Ivory Coast with the patronage of a man named Abdoulaye Traore. For a first effort this truly was a masterpiece. ‘Kankeletigui’ would become like a hymn, the soundtrack to the transition to democracy in Mali. For a whole year Dieneba was the untouchable queen of Malian song.
Her second album, ‘Kounkanko Kononni’ was released in 1996 and its sales exceeded all expectations. The following year a French-based Malian magazine invited her to France, where she met producer Ibrahima Sylla. He quickly signed her up for his latest project, ‘Les Grobinees’, alongside Sona Tata and Hadja Maningbe.
Dieneba is still thought of by many as an outsider but she has continued unabashed to seek out every nuance and subtlety in her musical compositions. She signed a deal with Syllart Productions and released the album ‘Djourou’ in July 1999.
For the past four years Dieneba has been composing this opus of 12 new songs, ‘Tigne – The Truth’, arranged by her old mentor Sekou Kouyate and produced by Cameroonian guitarist Yves Ndjock.
STUKAS "KITA MATA ABC"
18 April 2005
"ABC - EASY AS 1 2 3"
Lita Bembo – the great showman of Congo-Zairean music – was one of the most inspirational musicians of the ‘new generation’ that stormed Kinshasa in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Stukas du Zaire. His unique blend of impassioned Ekonda vocal styles and frenetic guitar patterns turned his compositions into instant hits, while his eccentric stage antics and innovative dance routines endeared him to young and old alike. The music, like the man, remains larger than life.
Never afraid to use onstage props for maximum impact, live TV footage from the 1970s shows Lita carrying a 6ft high crucifix to visually emphasise the message in a song. That same performance also shows Lita singing with his hands shackled together with iron chains – looking like a slave about to be transported to the new world. Libekk Lita Bembo – a unique, larger than life character.
Stories abound about how, in the mid 1970s, during the school holidays, Stukas would occupy long daytime slots on Voix du Zaire television. Clustered around the cheap black and white TV sets a nation of youngsters gathered, gazing spellbound at Lita’s every movement. Such was the impact of Stukas that the authorities thought them a useful tool to clear the streets of troublesome youngsters.
Orchestre Stukas began in 1968 as a lose formation of musicians lead by the vocalist Alida Lomingo. Lita drifted in a few months later. Like many of their contemporaries the Stukas Boys – Lokole Stukas – drew inspiration from the sound of young Kinshasa.
Many of the members of this great orchestra have passed unrecorded on sleevenotes and other ‘semi-reliable’ information sources. Lita himself says he worked with more than 50 vocalists during Stukas’ lifetime. Just a few of the many singers who deserve a mention here include Alida (co-leader), Kisola, Djo Isa, Kojos, Theo, Djarrys, Ilton and Makolin. Of the solo guitarists we have ‘le professeur’ Samunga, Bongo Wende, Kembo, Jon Pierre, Le Pop, Dengas and Dodoli. Drummers included Mama Yes and Awilo Longomba, and bassists Dada Koma, Nguma Loketo.
The tracks on this CD, compiled by Vincent Luttman of www.nostalgieyamboka.net , date from 1974 to 1983, running in reverse chronological order. These are some rare and righteous grooves from a master of modern music.
‘Kita Mata ABC' – Get Down, Get Up and take it from the top.
18 October 2004
RING MY BEL
MBILIA BEL - BELISSIMO
1983 was quite a year for African music. Stern’s African Record Centre opened on Whitfield Street in London and Mbilia Bel released her first solo record for Tabu Ley’s label Genidia. 1985 was even more momentous: not only was Mbilia Bel’s first child was born, but her LP Boya Ye was released on the Stern’s Africa label. It has taken 19 years for these great names to join forces again, but the resulting CD is worth the wait. There’s only one word for it: “Belissimo”!
The Executive Producer of Belissimo is the legendary Ibrahima Sylla, whose career spans such important recordings as Salif Keita’s Soro in 1987 to this year’s West African masterpiece Mandekalou – The Art and Soul of the Mande Griot.
Souzy Kasseya, a Congolese guitarist still revered by many of the old guard, handles the arrangements and musical direction. He is joined on guitar by Dally Kimoko, Yves Ndjock & Olivier Tshimanga.
Kandia Kouyate, Malian Diva, Stern’s recording artist and star of Mandekalou, features as extra-special guest vocalist on "Droit à l’amour".
Belissimo is Mbilia Bel’s first release since Welcome in 2001. It will be eagerly awaited by all her fans and will be guaranteed to gain her many new ones.
Mbilia Bel will be playing the following concerts to promote the new release: