Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bembeya Jazz

It doesn't get any better than this....

Bembeya Jazz

Me with members of the band - trombone player, drummer and trumpet player

Why am I all excited, because Manning and I went to their concert the night before (and this time we left Addison and Parker at home with a good movie - they were happy and we were happy) and as I leave the apartment the next morning and am passing by the hotel (2 doors down from our place) I see a bunch of guys hanging out in front. I look over and recognize their badges  with the graphic from the concert (and their shirts too). And then I think  "OMG - I think It's THEM!!" - they stayed over at Hotel Miramar - so I stop and confirm it's the Bembeya Jazz group and then I attempt to tell them now in what seems to be my worst french ever - what  a great concert it was. Some of them started shaking my hand and we all smiled. I then started to walk away to head to the Casino supermarche - realizing how stupid I was to have left without going back up to get my camera. So I continue on and just tell myself it's a souvenir of the mind as I head to the supermarche - do the shopping and return back to the apartment of which I was certain it had been at least 45 minutes. As luck would have it upon my return, they were still outside while their van was getting packed up and while someone they knew was taking some final group photos. At that point I asked if I could get my camera before they left and I'm certain it was their  "manager" who said  to me "vites, vites" - and so I did!!

Here's a clip of some of their music.

A little history from the BBC - If there's any such thing as a "golden age" in the music of a nation, then the 1960s and 1970s were that time for the West African state of Guinea. Under the forceful unifying leadership of President Sekou Touré, performing artists were subsidised and encouraged to take pride in their local folkloric roots and to compete with each other. The band that eventually came to be called Bembeya Jazz National, after winning first place at one of Touré's biennial arts festivals, first came together in 1961 just a year after his reforms began.

Bembeya Jazz combined the best of their Manding heritage with an Africanized jazz sensibility and a strong affection for Afro-Cuban music to create some of the most sublime big band music ever. With an agreeably off key brass section, sweet and sour harmony vocals and a guitar trio led by the breathtakingly fluid improvisations of Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabaté, they became Guinea's best loved orchestra during the optimistic years following independence.

Disaster struck in 1973 when they lost their star vocalist Aboubacar Demba Camara in a car crash. The band sound just fine on the album they made in tribute to him shortly afterwards, and continued to thrill audiences right through the seventies. But economic decline and the death of Touré - by then, a fully fledged dictator - in 1984 was mirrored by a loss of the magic in their music; they made their last lacklustre recording in 1988. By the end of the 1990s, Bembeya Jazz had been reduced to sporadic live appearances (as opposed to six nights a week in their heyday) and were barely making a living from music. However, they never split up completely...

Enter Christian Mousset, founder of French world music label Indigo and Artistic Director of the Musiques Metisses festival in Angoulême, where Bembeya Jazz made a stunning come-back in May, 2001. He subsequently oversaw the production of their first album in 14 years for his new label Marabi.


I think we got the best of 50 years with a handful of veterans and some new recruits.

Sidy Diacko (who I could not find a profile write up for)  was the warm up and he was quite enjoyable too!  I've added a clip of his singing but keep your eye on the dumming too!

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