THE ORIGINAL SOUND OF BURKINA FASO.

The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso.

Label: Mr. Bongo Records.

After the success of Mr. Bongo’s The Original Sound Of Mali compilation, the Brighton-based label recently released a new compilation, The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso which was compiled by David ‘Mr Bongo’ Buttle and Florent Mazzoleni. The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso transports the listener back to the seventies which was a golden age for music in the country that until 1984 was called the Republic of Upper Volta. 

That had been the case since 1958, when the former French Upper Volta became a self-governing colony and part of the French Union became the Republic of Upper Volta. Less than two years later, and the Republic of Upper Volta gained independence from France in August 1960 and Maurice Yaméogo became the West African country’s first President. This was meant to be a new start for the people of the Republic of Upper Volta.

Sadly, like many former colonies and commonwealth countries, the Republic of Upper Volta has had a chequered past. The start of the country’s problems was the 1966 Upper Voltan coup d’état. This resulted in the Republic of Upper Volta’s constitution being suspended and the National Assembly dissolved. Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana headed up a government that comprised senior army officers. Just six years after gaining independence from France,  the Republic of Upper Volta was in turmoil.

This was the start of a four-year period where the army with ‘governed’ with Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana as its President governed the Republic of Upper Volta. He remained the country’s president throughout the seventies, which was a golden age for music in the Republic of Upper Volta. That was remarkable considering the problems in the Republic of Upper Volta during the period.

The country suffered from famine and a drought that ravaged neighbouring countries. Corruption was also rife within the Republic of Upper Volta, even when a new constitution was ratified on the ’14th’ of June 1976, and this signalled the start of a four-year transition period toward complete civilian rule. 

Throughout this period, Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana was President of the Republic of Upper Volta, and he was reelected during open elections in 1978. By then, the Republic of Upper Volta was in the throes of the historic five-year Sahel drought, which began in 1975 and lasted until 1980. To make matters worse, there was a famine in the Republic of Upper Volta, and people were dying while corruption was rife. Still, though, the music scene in the Republic of Upper Volta continued to thrive.

So much so, the seventies are now regarded as a golden age for the music scene in the Republic of Upper Volta. Musicians and bands including Abdoulaye Cisse, Amadou Balaké, Bozambo, John Oumar Nabollé, Mangue Kondé Et Les 5 Consuls, Pierre Sandwidi, Tidiani Coulibaly, Dafra Star and Youssouf Diarra were part of a thriving and vibrant music scene. The music these talented and often flamboyant musicians recorded and released was eclectic, and included blues, disco, folk, funk, highlight, Latin psychedelia, rock and soul. Sometimes, the lyrics were full of social and political comment, which was risky when the Republic of Upper Volta was ruled by a military government which was led by Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana.

As the seventies gave way to the eighties, Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana clung on to power in the Republic of Upper Volta. Many thought that one of West Africa’s political survivors was invincible, but they were in for a shock.

During the last three decades, the Republic of Upper Volta’s trade union movement was a powerful force, even under Maurice Yaméogo’s rule. The trade unions had been a thorn in the side of Maurice Yaméogo’s government when he banned all political parties except for the Voltaic Democratic Union. This resulted in protests and demonstrations, where the trade union movement joined forces with students and civil servants. However,  Maurice Yaméogo’s answer was to send in the army, who intervened and broke up the demonstrations. Fourteen years later, and the trade unions were determined that history wouldn’t repeat itself.

Behind the scenes, leaders within the trade union movement started to oppose Lt. Col. Sangoulé Lamizana and soon, became a thorn in his the president’s side. However, the trade unions leaders knew that had to tread a fine line, as the man who had presided over their country during the most disastrous decade in its short history could unleash the forces of the army. If this happened, he trade unions leaders realised that this could lead to bloodshed and brutal battles in the streets of the Republic of Upper Volta. This was something they didn’t want

Nor were the trade unions leaders willing to support Col. Saye Zerbo, who overthrew President Lamizana in a bloodless coup on the ’25th’ November 1980. After the coup d’état, Colonel Zerbo established the Military Committee of Recovery for National Progress which would govern the Republic of Upper Volta. This was another disaster for the country, as it eradicated the 1977 constitution. It was a case of one step further, and two steps back.

By the time the Col. Saye Zerbo came to power, the country’s musical golden period, which is documented on The Original Sound of Burkina Faso was over. There was still some amazing music being made in the Republic of Upper Volta but not as much as there had been. That was no surprise, as the next few years would be tumultuous for the people of the Republic of Upper Volta.

Col. Saye Zerbo rule was relatively short-lived, and he was overthrown by the little-known Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo  and a number of junior army officers who were part of the Council of Popular Salvation. The new President promptly banned all political parties and organisations, but contradicted himself by promising a new constitution and transition to civilian rule. 

Given the mixed messages, it was no wonder that a year later Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo was the latest President of the Republic of Upper Volta to be overthrown. He had been unable to control the right and left-wing factions within the Council of Popular Salvation, and it was no surprise that less than a year later, in January 1983, Maj. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo exited stage left, the victim of a coup d’état.

The man behind the coup d’état was a member of the left-wing faction within the Council of Popular Salvation, Capt. Thomas Sankara. He entered through the revolving door that lead to the Prime Minister’s office and he was arrested later in 1983.

When Capt. Blaise Compaoré set about trying to free the former Prime Minister Capt. Thomas Sankara this lead to yet another  coup d’état on the ‘4th’ of August 1983. This lead to the return of Capt. Thomas Sankara to power, and he began what was heralded as a radical program.

Suddenly, programs mass-vaccinations and infrastructure improvements were announced by Capt. Thomas Sankara. He also set about encouraging domestic agricultural consumption and proposed anti-desertification projects. There was also an expansion of women’s rights under Capt. Thomas Sankara. However, he had also dreamt up a cunning plan.

This he put into place on the ‘4th’ of August 1984 when the Republic of Upper Volta and became Burkina Faso. Despite all his radical policies, and his determination to improve the life of the people of Burkina Faso, some things didn’t change 

Just over three years later, there was yet another coup d’état in Burkina Faso on the ‘15th’ of October 1987, organised by Blaise Compaoré, who was a former colleague of Capt. Thomas Sankara. Despite this, Capt. Thomas Sankara and twelve of his colleagues were killed, and Blaise Compaoré went on to rule Burkina Faso until October 2014.

Sadly, by then, forty years had passed since Burkina Faso’s golden age. This was part of the country’s cultural heritage and was something the people of Burkina Faso are deeply proud of. Sadly, very few people outside of Burkina Faso, apart from some musical connoisseurs are aware of this golden musical age. It’s documented on The Original Sound of Burkina Faso, which features some of the leading lights of the country’s vibrant musical scene during this golden age.

Some of the artists that feature on The Original Sound of Burkina Faso feature several times. That is no surprise, as they played an important part in the country’s music scene during the golden era that was the seventies. This includes Abdoulaye Cisse.

He features three times, and has the honour of opening The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso. However, Abdoulaye Cisse released his stunning psychedelic soul single A Son Magni in 1975 on the Club Voltaïque Du Disque label. Two years later, in 1977, Abdoulaye Cisse et L’Orchestre Le Super Volta De La Capitale collaborated on what’s an enchanting and almost mesmeric example of Afro-Latin swerve. It was released on the Club Voltaïque Du Disque label around 1977.  The following year, Abdoulaye Cisse released his album Les Vautours on the Christiana Satel label in 1978. Its closing track was Aw Yé Douba Ké, which is a fusion of Afrobeat, funk and soul, and a tantalising taste of an incredibly rare album.

Amadou Balaké features four times on the compilation, which allows him to showcase a sound that often, features elements of Afro-Fusion and funk. One of his contributions is the irresistible calypso dancer Whisky Et Coca-Cola, which is a true hidden gem. By 1978, Amadou Balaké had signed to the Ivory Coast label Sacodis, and would release a quartet of albums between 1978 and 1979. This includes his 1978 album Taximen, which features Wayisjelequeyele, an urgent, hypnotic, funky and soulful song. The same year, 1978, Amadou Balaké released his Bar Konon Mousso Bar album which features Super Bar Konon Mousso and Aminata Du Thé. Both tracks are über funky and dancefloor friendly as Amadou Balaké draws inspiration from disco and funk as d Western and African music unite and become one.

When Bozambo released their Africa album on the Disc’ Africana label, it featured the Georges Ouedraogo composition Kombissé. It’s an almost peerless example of highlife hustle and features musical masterclass from virtuoso drummer Georges Ouedraogo. The result is a  welcome addition to The Original Sound of Burkina Faso.

During the seventies, Pierre Sandwidi released a dozen singles, and two albums, including Koury, which was released on the Ivory Coast label Disc-Orient. Koury features Boy Cuisinier where Pierre Sandwidi utilises synths during this genre-melting track. It finds the bush troubadour fusing elements of Afrobeat with R&B and even elements of Western pop to create his unique brand of music with a social conscience. The bush troubadour Pierre Sandwidi and Super Volta collaborated on the single Mam Ti Fou which was released on Club Voltaïque Du Disque in 1977. Hidden away on the B-Side was the genre-melting hidden gem Yamb Ne Y Capitale, which features an impassioned and emotive vocal from  Pierre Sandwidi.

In 1977, Tidiani Coulibaly and Dafra Star collaborated on the single De Nwolo, which was released on the Music Hall label. It has an almost hypnotic and otherworldly sound that is truly captivating. Tucked away on the B-Side as Sie Koumgolo which has an intensity and urgency as Tidiani Coulibaly delivers his lead vocal.

There’s two collaborations from Mangue Konde on The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso. The first is between Mangue Konde et Le Super Mandé on their Ikélé Tatê album, which was released on the Éditions Omogidi Music in 1978. One of the album’s highlights  was Touba which showcases two of the leading lights of the Burkina Faso during the seventies. Pop Kondé was the B-Side of Woulouni which was released as a single by Mangue Kondé Et Les 5 Consuls on the Volta Discobel label. Funky, soulful and irresistible Pop Kondé is proof that it’s always worth checking the B-Side of a single.

During the second half of the seventies, disco’s popularity was at an all-time high, and its tentacles were reaching far and wide. Even parts of Africa, including the Republic of Upper Volta had succumbed to disco. One of the artists who embraced disco was John Oumar Nabollé who contributes M’ba Lalé which he released on the Club Voltaïque Du Disque label. It’s a fine example of African disco that probably filled a few dancefloors.

The other track on The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso is  Youssouf Diarra Dit El Grand Ballaké’s DJanfa Magni which is a track from their Rock Star album. It was released on Editions Shakara Music in 1978 and one of the album’s highlights was DJanfa Magni. With a vocal that oozes emotion and mesmeric arrangement that draws the listener in and holds their attention, it’s a welcome addition to The Original Sound of Burkina Faso. Hopefully, if there’s a followup compilation, another track from Rock Star will feature.

For anyone looking for an introduction to  golden age of Burkina Faso’s music, the seventies, there’s no better starting place than the lovingly compiled The Original Sound of Burkina Faso which as recently released by Mr. Bongo Records. It features what was the great and good of the Burkina Faso music scene during its golden age in the seventies. 

This includes contributions from musicians and bands including Abdoulaye Cisse, Amadou Balaké, Bozambo, John Oumar Nabollé, Mangue Kondé Et Les 5 Consuls, Pierre Sandwidi, Tidiani Coulibaly, Dafra Star and Youssouf Diarra. They were part of Burkina Faso’s thriving and vibrant music scene during the seventies, and records an eclectic selection of music including Afrobeat blues, disco, folk, funk, highlife, Latin psychedelia, rock and soul. All these influences can be heard on the sixteen tracks on The Original Sound of Burkina Faso, which offers a fascinating insight into this troubled country’s music scene during the seventies which nowadays, is regarded as the golden age of Burkina Faso music.

The Original Sound Of Burkina Faso.

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