Original source of the blues and fabled land of musical giants, West Africa is a powerhouse like no other. From the first African artist to sell a million singles, Mory Kanté, to new torch bearers Samba Touré, Nuru Kane and the driving desert blues of Etran Finatawa this is a collection of timeless and inspirational recordings.
This Rough Guide illuminates the fullest-fattest cream of West African music that has passed through the doors of Riverboat Records HQ over the last twenty-five years. Stretching some eighteen countries from Mauritania in the North to Congo in the South, West Africa is a place of many music's. This selection focuses on the powerhouses of Senegal and Mali in the main. Enjoy our handpicked cuts and get ready to get knee-deep in the archive.
Our journey begins with the ever illustrious Nuru Kane of Senegal via Paris. 'Afrika' is a bubbling track with tincture of mbalaxandgnawa swagger mixed through with influences from Nuru's allegiance to the Baye Fall brotherhood of Sufism. Samba Touré welcomes us to Mali next. 'Alabina' reflects the legacy of Ali Farka Touré with bending blues notes and loopy cyclical grooves. Sticking in Mali 'Farinya Manji' was recorded by the orchestra of The Bamako School for the Blind - the very same educational institution where superstars Amadou &;amp Mariam first met. There must be something in the water at that school this track is irresistibly juicy. 'Kaye Waxama' explores the Fula traditions from the South of Senegal by songsmith Daby Balde. 'Ekassa' by Ghana's Victor Uwaifo is a retro journey into 1971 highlife gone electric.
Bamako's blues bad-boy Anansy Cissé delivers gentle track 'Fati Ka' next bolstering Mali's offering on this album. Etran Finatawa's 'Kel Tamasheck' reflects the roots of two Saharan nomadic peoples joined together in music-making, the Woddaabe and Tuareg. Amadou Diagne's 'Senegal' is a love-letter from a griot(hereditary story-teller) living abroad to his homeland. Mory Kanté from Guinea shot to fame with his danceable, fast-paced popped-up music, the vibe on 'Mama' is no exception to his trademark style.
Sally Nyolo heads up the West of West Africa with Cameroonian rhythms, gently warping guitars and feather-light percussion on 'Me So Wa Yen'. Sally makes a return later in the album but this time in the role of producer for the Bidjoi Sisters. This relaxed track is taken from the album Studio Cameroonwhen she travelled back to Cameroon, set up a tin-roofed recording studio and captured the local sounds of bands from her area onto tape purely for the joy of it.
'Adwoa (Otanfo)' is the opening track from sunbright album Seprewa Kasa.The seprewais an endangered West African instrument, less-loved than the ever-popular kora but beautiful just the same. This track celebrates the roots of highlife in a brilliant acoustic and contemporary setting. From Eastern Niger Mamane Barka's track 'Mashi' explores the biram, a sacred instrument of the Boudoma, an ethnic group of nomadic fishermen on Lake Kargila. The instrument resembles a boat and the community who play it believe it is protected by the spirit of the lake. It's sound is water-like, played rushing and urgent in rhythmic underlay.
Winning the prize for best named track on the album Ghanaian Koo Nimo's 'Adowa Palmwine Set: You Will Be Overtaken By Events / Listen, Listen and Listen Again' tells the story of the cuckoo and the cock and was told when the king was being installed on the throne.The cock crows at dawn when people go to work while in the evening, the cuckoo sings to welcome people home. 'If you are a king or leader and you don't respect your elders and the youth, you will be overtaken by events.' In true palmwine style, this track is best listened to under the stars, kicking back with a drink in hand and a patient curious mood in head. Senegalese kora maestro Nomoucounda Cissoko closes out the album with tarantella-esque and finger-twisting song 'Noumou Koradioulu'.