Greetings! To further a personal crusade of mine, here's Bembeya Jazz National at their very best. This was the orchestra's second studio LP, released on Guinea's state-run Syliphone label. Here's some background from Graeme Counsel's invaluable liner notes from the Stern's Africa Authenticité compilation:
The story of the Syliphone label is a remarkable tale of music in an era of African independence and anti-imperialism. Since its independence from France in 1958, Guinea's artists were radicalised by an official cultural policy which sought to modernise the arts while still being faithful to traditional roots. It was a policy called authenticité, and music was its prime focus.
Under the policy, each region in Guinea, some 34 in total, were represented by artistic troupes. These consisted of an orchestra, a traditional music ensemble, a choir and a theatrical group. The government purchased musical instruments for the orchestras and encouraged them to sing about topics such as African nationalism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. These regional orchestras were known as Orchestres Federaux, and together with Guinea's Orchestres Nationaux they were at the vanguard of musical production in Africa during the independence era.
The Syliphone label's fame grew from these orchestras and was elevated by the high calibre of the musicians who appeared on the recordings - artists such as Sékou "Diamond Fingers" Diabaté, Demba Camara, Kouyaté Sory Kandia and, from South Africa, Miriam Makeba. Guinea's musicians toured all over the continent as well as to Europe, the United States, Russia, Cuba and South America.
The Syliphone label thus captured a moment in African history, when a new nation asserted its voice and placed music at the forefront of its cultural identity.
Unfortunately, Authenticite 73 would be lead singer Demba Camara's last stand.
Arriving in Dakar for a series of concerts, several members of the group were transported from the airport in a chauffeur-driven car. En route their vehicle was involved in an accident, overturning and seriously injuring Demba Camara. Camara later died from his injuries, plunging Guinea into national mourning. His untimely death had a profound effect on the other members of the band, and for three years Bembeya Jazz neither toured or recorded.
But Bembeya did rise again, continuing to evolve into the early eighties, when the death of President Sékou Touré and subsequent military takeover signaled the end of the party for everyone involved.
An icon of Guinea's golden age of independence and authenticité.
bembeya jazz national
syliphone slp 39 (1973)
01 Touraman (Rumba Lente) 6.49
02 Moussogbe (Mamaya) 7.07
03 Dia (Tentemba) 6.06
04 Demba (Mamaya) 5.58
05 Paya Paya (Rumba Guineé) 5.43
06 Sou (Morna) 5.15
07 Senero (Rumba) 4.08
08 N'Gnamakoro (Tentemba) 10.50