b. Senegal. Reckoned by many to be the top producer throughout Africa, Sylla is not a musician himself, but inherited from his father, a diplomat with 13 wives, an aptitude for business and a love of music (though they would disagree on his choice of career). With many feasts of baptism in the Sylla household (his father’s twin brother also had eight wives, and between the two brothers there were 73 children), Sylla observed the griots of Senegal, Gambia and Mali, who were invited to perform at such occasions. When he travelled abroad with his father he spent time in all the major cities buying records, and attending concerts in the evening. While still a student he boasts of owning over 6, 000 Latin records alone. His student days were spent in Paris, studying economics, where he started his first business, acquiring the rights to Latin and Cuban releases and licensing them for cassette issue in France and Africa. Afterwards he moved into production, facilitating new recordings by African musicians, leading to the establishment of the Syllart Record Company in Dakar, Senegal, in 1978. This has become one of the most important outlets for African music, offering consistency and quality in a climate noted for the variability of both those qualities. Sylla has usually operated as house producer, counting among his many notable credits production on Salif Keita’s Soro, rated by many as one of the African continent’s greatest records of the 80s. Others to benefit from his input include Pépé Kallé and Sam Mangwana. In 1992 he collaborated with arranger Boncana Maiga to produce the groundbreaking Africando album, featuring a trio of top ranking Senegalese vocalists coupled with Cuban and Latino instrumentation - a return to the obsession of his youth. It won him several further plaudits.
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