THE BRIEF RECORDING CAREER OF AMARA TOURE: 1973-1980.
The Brief Recording Career Of Amara Touré: 1973-1980.
Amara Touré’s recording career spanned just seven years and saw him record just ten tracks. His recording career began in 1973 and was over by 1980. By then, he had recorded three singles and the four tracks that featured his 1980 album Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako. These ten tracks comprise Amara Touré’s discography.
While that might not seem like much, but for seven years, Amara Touré consistently released groundbreaking music and forty years after he called the on his record career is remembered as one of the most influential and inventive artists of his generation. His career began back in 1958.
Back then, Senegal had been won over by Son Montuno and Patchanga music. That had been the case since the early forties, when Cuba sailors first brought Son Montuno and Patchanga home from their travels. It quickly found an audience within the local music scene. Soon, Caribbean music was providing the soundtrack to many clubs in Senegal. Before long, the locals had embraced this vibrant, exotic sound. The next stop was to combine Son Montuno and Patchanga with their own music.
Soon, Caribbean music was being combined with West African and Latin music. The result was unique and unlike any other musical genre, as the music of three continents combined. This new sound was quickly embraced by local musicians and producers.
This included Ibra Kassé who also owned the Miami nightclub in Dakar. His club would at the heart of this new scene as it exploded into life. Across Dakar, bands were being formed and ballroom parties were being thrown. There were hardly enough local musicians to fulfil the demand and musicians were coming from much further afield. This included Amara Touré, a percussionist and singer from Guinea-Conakry.
Amara Touré was discovered by Ibra Kassé when he was accompanying Dexter Johnson. When Ibra Kassé first heard Amara Touré he realised the young percussionist and singer had potential and was destined for greater things.
Ibra Kassé asked Amara Touré of he wanted to become part of a new band he was putting together in Dakar. It didn’t take him long to agree. What he didn’t realise was that this new band would change Senegalese music forever.
Having agreed to move to Dakar, Amara Touré packed his belongings and said goodbye to Guinea-Conakry. His destination was Dakar, where he was about to become a member of Le Star Band de Dakar. Little did Amara Touré know, that Le Star Band de Dakar would become one of the most important bands in the history of modern Senegalese music.
The leader of Le Star Band de Dakar was Mady Konaté. He would mentor many up-and-coming musicians so that eventually, would be able to go on and become bandleaders in their own right. Just like many other musicians, Amara Touré severed his musical apprenticeship in Le Star Band de Dakar. From the day he was brought onboard by Ibra Kassé, Mady Konaté realised that the young percussionist was destined for greater things.
As Mady Konaté oversaw rehearsals, he realised that Le Star Band de Dakar latest recruit was something special. Not only was Amara Touré a gifted percussionist, but he had a voice that mixed power, passion and emotion. Watching on, Mady Konaté was captivated as Amara Touré brought the songs to life, breathing meaning and emotion into the Cuban songs. Straight away, Mady Konaté saw what Ibra Kassé saw in Amara Touré. With him onboard, Mady Konaté realised that Le Star Band de Dakar were about to change Senegalese music forever.
Having joined Le Star Band de Dakar in 1958, they continued their residency at Ibra Kassé’s Miami nightclub. Soon, Le Star Band de Dakar’s star was soon in the ascendancy. They swept aside all-comers, and quickly became Dakar’s top orchestra. No other orchestra came close. This meant that patrons flocked to Ibra Kassé’s Miami nightclub. It became the only place in town and each night, was packed to the rafters. This lasted for the ten years that Amara Touré was a member of Le Star Band de Dakar. He left Le Star Band de Dakar in 1968, and a new chapter in his career began.
While Amara Touré was enjoying his time with Le Star Band de Dakar, by 1968, he was thinking about returning home, and forming his own band. However, then he received an offer that he couldn’t turn down when he was contacted by Assane Dieye, about joining L’Ensemble Black and White.
For some time, there had been tension between members of Lynx Tall and the other members of the L’Ensemble Black and White. They thought that Lynx Tall was a “big head,” and that he was more important than the other band members. So Assane Dieye was dispatched to ask Amara Touré whether he wanted to join L’Ensemble Black and White as their new lead singer.
With Amara Touré looking for a new challenge, it made sense to accept this new offer. Especially since he would be playing with some of the top musicians in Senegal. So, Amara Touré agreed to join ’Ensemble Black and White, and journeyed to Cameroon, where they become L’Ensemble Black and White were playing.
For five years, the Black and White ensemble toured Cameroon relentlessly. Night after night, week after week, month after month they played live. One year became two, became three, four and five. During that period, L’Ensemble Black and White played the top venues. They were seen as the top band in Cameroon. So much so, that they were regarded as Cameroon’s presidential band. However, despite their undoubtable popularity, L’Ensemble Black and White had never recorded a single. That changed in 1973 when they entered the studio for the first time,
For their first singles, Amara Touré and the rest of L’Ensemble Black and White headed to the studio. L’Ensemble Black and White’s lineup features Amara Touré on tenor vocal and percussion, with Ahanda on second vocal. Many members of L’Ensemble Black and White were from Cameroon, including bassist Jean-Claude N’Jo, rhythm guitarist Lucien, lead guitarist Charles and keyboardist Tina Brown. Drummer Mosquito and alto saxophonist Fete are from the Congo, while clarinet player Peter was from Nigeria. This musical league of nations entered the studio for the first time in 1973.
In total, L’Ensemble Black and White recorded just three singles with Amara Touré as lead singer. The first of these singles was N’Niyo, which featured Cuando Llegare on the B-Side. They were released on the French label Sonafric, which was an imprint of Sondisc. Despite their popularity, L’Ensemble Black and White’s debut single wasn’t a commercial success. However, at least Amara Touré had fulfilled what he set out to do.
Before he set foot in a recording studio, Amara Touré knew exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to put on record some of the most sensual, seductive music in the history of African music. This was how he described his music. Especially a song like N’Niyo, where he delivers a truly impassioned, pleading vocal. It’s accompanied by stabs of horns and a hypnotic, meandering arrangement. Sadly, this sensuous music never found the audience Amara Touré hoped when it was released. He wasn’t going to give up though.
The followup to N’Niyo was Temedy, a song written by Amara Touré. He also penned the B-Side Fatou. It was released in 1974 and just like N’Niyo, it wasn’t a commercial success. Nowadays, copies are extremely rare changing hands for over £150. This genre-melting single is a real hidden gem and is a prized possession amongst collectors of African music.
No wonder given its undeniable quality. It features one of Amara Touré’s finest vocals and it soon becomes apparent what Ibra Kassé and Mady Konaté saw in Amara Touré. It’s a fusion of Amara Touré’s Mandingue roots and the Senegalese sound that he mastered with Le Star Band de Dakar. This was the platform for his impassioned Afro-Cuban interpretations of Temedy and Fatou and the third single Amara Touré recorded with L’Ensemble Black and White.
The followup L’Ensemble Black and White recorded what would be the third and final single with Amara Touré. N’Ga Digne M’Be was chosen as the single, and Lamento Cubano as the flip side. Once the two songs were recorded, N’Ga Digne M’Be was released as a single in 1975. Sadly, it was a similar story to the other two singles released by L’Ensemble Black and White and commercial success eluded N’Ga Digne M’Be. It was a huge disappointment for the members of the Ensemble Black and White.
There was further disappointment when they realised that they wouldn’t record any further singles with Amara Touré. They continued to tour with but never again entered a recording studio together.
Right up until Amara Touré left L’Ensemble Black and White in 1980, they were still one of the most popular bands in Cameroon. They continued to tour relentlessly, playing some of the most desirable venues in the country. However, by 1980, Amara Touré wanted to expand his musical repertoire and in 1980 crossed the Cameroonian border and headed to Libreville, Gabon, where he collaborated with the L’Orchestre Masco.
The collaboration between Amara Touré and the L’Orchestre Massako resulted in what many connoisseurs of African music consider a stonewall classic album, Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako.
While Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako may only feature four tracks but they’re part of what’s akin to lost musical treasure. Copies of Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako were incredibly rare and don’t change hands often. When they do it’s for in excess of £230 and that’s why very few people have heard the musical gold that is Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako.
Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako.
From the opening bars of Afalago, through Tela, Salamouti and right through to the closing bars of Africa, the collaboration between Amara Touré and L’Orchestre Massako is a meeting of musical giants. Accompanied by some of the most talented musicians in the Gabon, Amara Touré reaches previously unreached musical heights. Musical genres melt into one as L’Orchestre Massako prove the perfect foil to Amara Touré’s vocal prowess. His vocals are variously heartfelt, impassioned, powerful, pleading and hopeful as twenty-two years of experience shines through, on what was Amara Touré’s swan-song.
Following the release of Amara Touré Accompagné Par L’Orchestre Massako in 1980, Amara Touré disappeared. It’s thought that he stayed in Cameroon for a while. What’s not known, is whether he’s still alive and nobody has seen or heard from Amara Touré in forty years. That’s sad and also ironic.
Not long after the disappearance of Amara Touré, his music started to find the audience it so richly deserves. Since then, his music has grown in popularity and that’s still the case today.
Amara Touré only recording career began in 1973 and was over by 1980. During that period, he recorded just ten tracks this includes six with L’Ensemble Black and White and four with L’Orchestre Massako. These songs showcase a musical pioneer at the peak of his powers as he fuses elements of African, Afro-Cuban and Latin music. Sometimes, he even adds elements of funk, jazz, soul and rock. This results in a tantalising musical fusion that continues to captivate and is truly timeless. It’s a reminder of Amara Touré, one of the most innovative and inventive African singers and percussionists of his generation, whose music is growing in popularity and belatedly starting find the wider audience it so richly deserves.
The Brief Recording Career Of Amara Touré: 1973-1980.
- Posted in: African Roots ♦ Afro Cuban ♦ Afrobeat
- Tagged: Amara Touré, Ibra Kassé, L’Ensemble Black and White, Le Star Band de Dakar, Mady Konaté
I know Amara Toure’s name but hardly any of his music. Your blog has helped me to understand why. Thank you.
It’s well worth trying to find Amara Toure’s music. The best way to do that is to buy a copy of the Analog Africa compilation from a few years ago. Copies are still available but getting harder to find. It’s a lot easier than trying to find copies of Amara Toure’s singles and LP which are becoming rarities and the prices rising with each passing year.