Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta
October 2, 2018 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Volta Jazz :
Wêrê Wêrê Magne,
Mama Soukous,
Djougou Malola
When Burkina Faso Vibrated with a New Culture
This story begins with the betrayal of a husband and ends with the betrayal of an entire country. Its setting is West Africa, the city of Bobo-Dioulasso. Bobo is in the south of Upper Volta, the country now known as Burkina Faso. The city has wide avenues where people shelter from the heat under the spreading branches of giant shea trees, and many of its denizens fill the long tropical nights in its bars and cafés. In 1959, a year before Upper Volta’s independence, from France, Brahima Traoré, the son of two musicians, hears that a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Bordas, has arrived in town with his wife and wants to form a band. “He wanted a guitar player,” Traoré told me.
Off the Beaten Track in Malawi and Burkina Faso
Florent Mazzoleni on Bobo-Dioulasso's Golden Age of Music
In This Bobo Yéyé Box Set, Find The Creativity And Optimism Of A Lost World.
Finding the original sound of Burkina Faso

The album Bobo Yéyé: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta: website, Bandcamp, Pitchfork

The photos, by Sanlé Sory: Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Dioulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Burkina Faso, The Postcolonial Moment, Rediscovering the Photography of Sory Sanlé, Documenting youth culture in the years after independence,

Thomas Sankara, a " Burkinabé pro-people revolutionary, Marxist, pan-Africanist and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is sometimes referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara."" Sankara was a member of Tout-à-Coup Jazz before the revolution.

Finding the original sound of Burkina Faso
“For Burkina Faso, no one really knows anything about this country,” says Florent Mazzoleni, who has written numerous books on music in Francophone African regions, helped research and compile records for Mr Bongo and has produced his own, among other things. “Our aim is try to gather together all these musicians and to help people discover about the life of Tidiane Coulibaly, or Volta Jazz, or Abdoulaye Cissé [who passed away in 2014].

“To me some of these of songs are so amazing that they need to be heard. And thanks to Mr Bongo we can do this, because in the Burkina volume, I think there’s everything: there’s some Latin music, some mandingo music, some punk. It covers a wide range of styles and influences.”
Fintalabo / “The Prayer of Volta Jazz,”
posted by the man of twists and turns (9 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
So good! Thank you for this!
posted by solotoro at 3:39 PM on October 2, 2018

posted by ChuraChura at 4:31 PM on October 2, 2018

Thanks! Mama Soukous is so beautiful.
posted by PHINC at 4:35 PM on October 2, 2018

Ody I like your style.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:23 PM on October 2, 2018

Burkina Faso is a beautiful country. There are over seventy languages spoken there, from several different language families. There are a lot of different musical traditions as well, from Mande to Fula to Mossi...

If you wander around Bobo-Dioulasso today, a lot of the music you'll hear is relatively recent releases from Nigeria or Mali. It's not accurate to say that the Burkinabe have "resisted the influx of popular music from [...] more dominant African markets," really. You can still find traditional ensembles if you ask around, but it's kind of like saying that the UK has resisted rock music from the US because there are still singer-songwriters and folk ensembles. And of course, a lot of these classics are very international in their influences.

I don't know, I get the sense that article is romanticizing the country a bit to sell an image of it that's appealing to Western readers who are looking for "authenticity", whatever that is. But it doesn't need it because the music is great and the country is interesting enough without it.

It's just a shame that it can be harder to find this music in Burkina than outside of it.

My favorite song by a Burkinabe artist is Amadou Balake's Taximen, although IIRC it wasn't recorded while he was living in Burkina.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:57 PM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

This was one of my favorite vinyl purchases of the year before last but there was a bit of controversy as far as how thoroughly the label had actually sourced rights and permission to the material. Though this is an all-too-common an occurrence in the world of African reissues repackaged for the English speaking world, Numero Group had previously had a reputation for being on the extremely upstanding end of the spectrum.

Burkina Faso Music Honored at Grammys, but Artists Cry Foul
posted by anazgnos at 10:31 PM on October 2, 2018

I really like the music and the photos, thank you for the post. I have never been to Burkina Faso and reading/listening to these links makes me want to go.

I hope the renewed attention benefits the artists, too, especially as they age, both financially and with the respect and recognition they deserve.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:44 AM on October 3, 2018

This is great!! Thanks for this.
posted by Toubab at 6:21 AM on October 3, 2018

^ OMG that username though. So perfect for this thread (though because of where I lived I was mostly called nasara...)

It's not accurate to say that the Burkinabe have "resisted the influx of popular music from [...] more dominant African markets," really.

I'd overall agree. Certainly when I lived there I saw artists traveling in from other areas being fully embraced and appreciated, especially Mali and Niger, and in Ouaga and Bobo especially there were always hella opportunities to see those acts. Also on the radio you'd get a pretty broad sampling of music from the region and wider continent. But I'd also say that my experience was if my friends or the local boutique/bar were playing something on the tape deck, it was more likely to be something more locally produced than not (with the exceptions of Bob Marley and weirdly Phil Collins and Celine Dion). I wouldn't characterize it as resisting other markets precisely, but folks are definitely pretty proud of their own musicians.
posted by solotoro at 6:43 AM on October 3, 2018

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