Oct 21, 2014

RhoDeo 1442 Roots


In the heart of the Mandingo Empire, in a small village in Southern Guinea called Albadaria, near Kissidougou, today's artist was born on February 24, 1950. His father, El Hadj Djelifodé Kanté was already an old man when Mory came into this world as one of the youngest of his father's 38 children. The Kanté family is a famous family of "griots"; the griot is a kind of poet, singer, historian and journalist wrapped into one, a purveyor of living history whose role from time immemorial has been to tell the endless stories of families and native peoples through music. Both of Mory's parents were griots, an inherited trade, and his mother's father was a powerful chief griot with a tribe of about 60 members. The child's destiny was naturally to become a "jali", that's Mandingo for "griot". In the beginning, Mory was brought up by his Malian mother, Fatouma Kamissoko, and he attended French school. At 7, his family sent him to Bamako, the capital of Mali, to live with his aunt, Maman Ba Kamissoko, another famous griot. Until about the age of 15, he followed instruction in traditional rituals, singing and the "balafon" (a wood vibraphone). Along the way he participated in numerous family celebrations, and official ceremonies which gave him a great deal of experience as a musician and a singer. .. ... N'joy

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Mory Kanté was born in 1950 in Albadania near Kissidougou in Guinea. Being born into the Kanté family Kanté is part of a long lineage of Griots whose musical tradition dates back to the 13th Century. His mother, Fatouma Kamissoko, was of Malian origin and it was her father, Jali Mory Sanda Kamissoko, who baptized his grandson by his own name. Kanté began his early musical education with his father El Hadj Djelifode who was leader of the Griots of Kissidougou. Kanté started off learning the Balafon, the symbolic instrument of the Kanté family dating back to the reign of Sumaworo Kanté, king of the Sosso in the 13th century. Kanté was later to recount this history of the Balafon in a 25-minute long piece entitled “Exile of Sundiata” which was recorded in 1975 during the time when he was a member of the Bamako Rail Band

As a teenager Kanté went to live in Mali’s capital Bamako with his aunt Manamba Kamissoko who was a Griot and a member of the Mali International Ensemble. Whilst in Bamako Kanté was able to explore the different styles of music that were coming into the country such as Congolese rumba, American and English popular music and Cuban mambo. By this time Kanté had also become a keen guitarist and was guitarist and singer for a group called the 'Apollos', named in reference to James Brown’s renowned “Live at the Apollo” recording. Kanté was later spotted by saxophonist and conductor of the infamous Malian Rail Band of which Salif Keita was then member. Kanté joined the band as a guitarist and balafonist, but when Keita left in 1973 he took up the position of vocalist. Whilst in Bamako Kanté discovered the Kora and taught himself how to play. Following the Rail Band’s tour of West Africa Kanté was awarded the  Voix d’Or (Golden Voice) trophy in Nigeria in 1976.

After leaving the rail Band Kanté settled in Abidjan in 1978 where he was to develop his originality. At a time when many were using more modern instruments such as guitars and keyboards Kanté wanted traditional instruments and he formed an ensemble comprising of Balafon, Djembe, Kora and Bolon which performed arrangements of international hits. The growing reputation of Kanté reached a new level when he directed the Mande Ballet in 1982 which comprised of 75 traditional and modern artists on the stage of the French cultural centre in Abidjan. After moving to France in 1984 his talents on the electric Kora won him audiences far and wide. His critically acclaimed album “Ten Kola Nuts” was nominated for the French Victories De La Musique  in 1986. This led to Kanté touring Europe, North Africa, Mali, Senegal, the USA and more.
In 1987 Kanté re-recorded his song 'Yéké Yéké' which he had originally recorded in a home-made style for his 1984 album 'Mory Kanté In Paris'. This new version (which featured on his album Akwaba Beach) caused sales to rocket to more than a million singles and half a million albums, and it reached the top spot on the Pan-European charts in Billboard Magazine (USA) in 1988. In 1990 Kanté represented France in the United States alongside Khaled on a huge stage in the heart of Central Park with an audience of thousands, and later that year he had the chance to go on stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem. On top of that his album  Touma (The Moment) achieved gold status in France.

In 1991 Kanté was commissioned to present his Symphony of Guinea (to be performed by 130 Griots) for the inaugural ceremony for the Grande Arche de la Défance in Paris. This offered him the chance to explore an idea that he had dreamed of for many years – to create in Africa an important musical city for the promotion of Mande Culture. The name he had for this was ‘Nongo Village’. As a starting point Kanté built a studio on land he had bought in the area of Conakry. Here he recorded his new album Nongo Village which was released in 1993. Following this he toured Europe and Canada and was awarded the Griot d’Or in Paris and the Prix Kilimandjaro by the Franco-African radio station in France, Africa No.1.
Whilst Kanté continued his touring across the world, including an appearance at WOMAD, his ‘Nongo Village’ project began to take shape in Conakry, and the local neighbourhood population were soon to baptize the area “Mory Kanté a”. Kanté explains that “I want to help to industrialise African music and culture through this project. It will include a major music school where traditional instruments will be taught...there will be a show business agency, three recording studios, and an audiovisual studio where artistic and cultural programs can be created.”

Fuelled by his legendary energy and commitment, Mory Kanté managed to be present on several fronts at once. At the ceremony marking World Food Day in 2001, the singer was appointed ambassador of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (the FAO). He made a memorable speech on this occasion, vowing that he would "work with people from different cultures and travel to different countries to encourage the development of exchange and mutual aid. We need to mobilise the entire world," he said, "in the fight against hunger and poverty." Mory Kanté continued his commitment to the UN organisation for a number of years, performing a concert in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, on behalf of the FAO in July 2003.

Meanwhile, Kanté also embarked upon another good cause, building local housing in Conakry. The project was greatly appreciated by the inhabitants of the Guinean capital who gratefully dubbed the neighbourhood "Mory Kantea." In 2002/2003, Mory Kanté performed extensively throughout Europe, appearing at many major music festivals. He ended up playing 120 concerts in over 25 different countries. In 2003, Mory Kanté was invited to perform a special concert at the Robin Island prison in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela had been held in captivity. The singer readily accepted the invitation to pay tribute to the anti-apartheid cause which had been close to his heart for many years.

In 2004, the "electric griot" locked himself away in the studio for weeks on end, preparing a new album that took the music world completely by surprise. Going back to his roots, Kanté recorded a totally acoustic album entitled "Sabou" ("The Cause"). The album, which mixed the experience he'd gained in his international career - and the release of several Afro-pop albums - with Mandingo tradition, featured a dozen musicians and backing singers. Kanté's new album won rave reviews from the critics and enjoyed great success with the public, revealing as it did a totally different side to his work.

Mory Kanté went on to create an acoustic show based on his new album. His next tour introduced international audiences to a wide range of traditional instruments including the balafon, the bolon, the daro, the fe doun doun, the doun doumba, the flute, the n’goni, the djembé, the tama. These accompanied Kanté's famous kora and did much to promote traditional Mandingo melodies from West Africa worldwide.

In July 2006, he was invited by the American-Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival along with Angélique Kidjo and Idrissa Diop. He was also asked to perform at the opening ceremony of the African games in Algeria the following year. What with the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada, the gigantic Sziget in Hungary, and performances in the Netherlands, Mory Kante’s 2008 schedule was jam-packed. He could also be heard that year alongside Mokobe and Mohamed Lamine on African Tonik, a track cooked up for the dance floor scene.

He returned to Algeria in 2009 for the second Pan-Africain Festival and, faced with political upheavals in his homeland, he joined an artists’ collective. At the end of 2010 they recorded "Unité en Guinée/Tous ensemble" on the joint initiative of the Senegalese Didier Awadi and the Ivoirian Tiken Jah Fakoly, with participation from Guineans Takana Zion, Fode Baro, Sia Tolno, and others. The video clip was shot in Conakry in the studios of the Nongo Village complex that Mory Kante had finally managed to get up and running, a decade after the project began. His compatriot Sia Tolno recorded the album "My Life" in the studios and won the RFI Découvertes award in 2011.

In July that year, with "Yeké Yeké" and his emblematic Kora, he had the honour of closing the Nuit Africaine organised at the Stade de France close to Paris. The show featured some of the major faces of African music playing to an audience of 20,000 during a five-hour concert. His album "La Guinéenne" was released in April 2012. The disk pays tribute to the women of his country and he presented it at the legendary New Morning in June 2012 with a fanfare of brass.

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This is one of Mory Kante's most infectious records. Kante’s album Akwaba Beach was a major European success following the release of a hit single ‘Yeke Yeke’ – a love song from Guinea which in Kante’s hands typifies the Afro-beat dance style of the times. ‘Yeke Yeke’ was the first African single to sell over one million copies. An alternative version of the song opens the Akwaba Beach album which came out on the French Barclay label in 1987.. The title track ‘Akwaba Beach’ closes the album and it really is the most outstanding song. It begins with the luscious sounds of guitar and keyboards ushering in the vocal which perfectly evokes a mood of nostalgia and longing. It doesn’t matter that Kante is singing in a language that most listeners won’t understand. Whether it’s the relentless beats of ‘Deni’ and ‘Nanfoulen’ or the slightly more subdued ‘Inch’ Allah’ and ‘Africa 2000’ everything is just right and the eight songs contain not a moment of superfluous sound.Dismissed by some for his heavy dance beat, Kante's crossover sound is a perfect way to ease your ears into the joys of African pop.

Mory Kante - Akwaba Beach  (flac  244mb)

01 Yé Ké Yé Ké 3:58
02 Deni 3:49
03 Inch' Allah 5:01
04 Tama 6:01
05 Africa 2000 4:39
06 Dia 4:49
07 Nanfoulen 5:18
08 Akwaba Beach 5:12

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The descendant of a caste of Guinean court musicians whose lineage goes back to the 14th-century Mali Empire, Kante plays a mean kora (the jangling 12-string African harp) and wails almost as intensely as Senegal's Youssou N'Dour. But he also has a pop sweet tooth that makes this one of the most lushly produced West African releases yet. ''Mankene'' is a stadium sing-along that melds Philly-Soul strings, Top-40 guitar, and rootsy vocals. ''Touma Seminde'' is even more ambitious: It reaches across the continent to South Africa and surrounds Solomon Linda's ''Mbube'' (a.k.a. ''The Lion Sleeps Tonight'') with mechanized rhythms and peppery Antillean horns. While neither Kante's keening nor the album as a whole has the soulful depth of N'Dour's Set, Touma compensates with brilliant, danceable sheen. A breakthrough release, it features an international band with guest stars Carlos Santana and Ray Phiri, but the unsung heroine is backing vocalist Djanka Diabate, who showers spice on Mory's cool. Let the purists fume; this one's for everybody else.

Mory Kante - Touma  (flac  287mb)

01 Krougnegne 4:03
02 Kissibala 4:10
03 Mankene 4:46
04 Ayeh 4:04
05 Faden 4:15
06 Touma (Wimowe) 4:20
07 Bankiero 3:37
08 Tele 4:12
09 Soumba 4:53
10 Sanfing 4:11

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For many years, Mory Kanté's beefed-up African music was the soundtrack of European dancefloors. This time around, however, the Guinean has gone back to his roots for an acoustic album that showcases his talents as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. It's every bit the tour de force it should be, too, very powerfully rooted, bristling with good material, and with Kanté himself never sounding better, the griot voice curling around notes and lines in his distinctive wail. He's ably supported by others, most notably Adama Condé, whose solos on the deep, xylophone-like balafon are a delight to the ear. But much of the credit lies with Kanté himself, who handles many of the instruments. Whether it's the relentless rhythm of "Mama" or the delicacy of "Nafiya," he's in complete control, letting the music frame his voice and leaving plenty of space for the songs to breathe. That he's a remarkable talent is already beyond question, given his resumé. But this stands head and shoulders above his previous work, some of which has seemed anonymous. Every note of this is personal and sounds that way, performed with joy, great love, and care. He addresses Africa's problems and potential solutions on the title cut, and the power of love in "Diananko," ideas that delve beyond most Western songs but fall well within the scope of a griot and a man concerned with his Mande past and future. With this record, Kanté has rejuvenated his career.

Mory Kanté - Sabou  (flac  373mb)

01 Bembeya 4:24
02 Sanfaran 6:31
03 Sabou 5:17
04 Gbapie 5:17
05 Lefa 4:22
06 Koukou We 7:23
07 Yelema Yelemaso 5:54
08 Soli Au Wassoulou 7:31

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Anonymous said...

Mory Kante's Akwaba Beach is a classic. Can you please re-up your link? Btw thanks a million for all the other interesting stuff you've pointed my nose at.

Anonymous said...

Thanks you so much for the re-up. You are a gentleman and a scholar!