History of Guinea Music

by 09/11/2012 11:44:00 0 comments 1436 Views

Guinea is a West African nation, composed of several ethnic groups. Of these, the music of the Mandé has been particularly popular and internationally well-known, even outside of West Africa.

Guinea's Mandé are mostly Maninka-speaking. Music is dominated by the djelis, travelling singer-historians who sing praises to their noble patrons. In modern times, the guitar plays a very important role. Traditionally, popular instruments include the ngoni, a distant relative of the banjo, and the balafon. Famous balafon players include El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyaté and, early in his career, superstar Mory Kanté. The kora, a cross between a harp and a lute, is also widespread. Other popular folk music utilizes the cylindrical Dunun paired with the goblet shaped Djembe.

Popular music

After World War 2, the guitar was imported to Guinea and players like Kanté Facelli and his cousin Kanté Manfila developed their own style of playing.

Independence for Guinea came in 1958, and the first major band in the Guinean popular music tradition was formed by the government soon after; this was the Syli Orchestre National, a dance orchestra which featured some of the best musicians in the land. Guinea's President, Sekou Toure, disbanded all of the private dance orchestras in the country, and created a network of state-sponsored groups throughout the countty. Some of the early dance bands included popular groups like Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis, Balla et ses Balladins, and Kebendo Jazz (also known as Orchestre de Danse de Guéckédou). Many of these bands recorded on Syliphone records. Bembeya Jazz National further enriched Guinea's musical melting pot after visiting Cuba in 1965.

As in Mali, a roots revival occurred in the 1960s and 1970s with state support from Sekou Touré. He introduced a radical cultural policy called "authenticite", whereby musicians and artists were instructed to "look at the past" for inspiration, and to incorporate traditional practices in their arts.

Authenticite ended with the death of Sekou Toure in 1984. Later, Mory Kanté became a big star. Albums like 10 Cola Nuts saw major mainstream success in both Guinea and Mali, as well as some European success. "Yeke Yeke", however, a single from Mory Kanté à Paris, became a European chart-topper in 1988.