Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso 1974-1979

Various Artists

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Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso 1974-1979 Review

by Thom Jurek

Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso: 1974-1979, the tenth volume in Analog Africa's ongoing series uncovering the forgotten sounds of the continent, takes us to new terrain once more: the miniscule, landlocked country of the West that is Burkina Faso. Containing 16 cuts, much of this music reflects the gigantic footprint of Nigeria's Afro-beat. That said, this set does contain its own mercurial, unique character, and in some cases relies more heavily on trance-inducing sounds of traditional folk, funk forms, and even Latin sources imported by the country's musicians who'd had to travel elsewhere to play and record due to poor recording conditions in their own country. The central figure of this collection is Amadou Ballake. The fourth track, "Renouveau," is indeed the muse that put Samy Ben Redjeb on the quest to assemble this stellar compilation. (The liner notes, in typical Redjeb fashion, detail the arduous process of travel and acquisition of the rights to reissue this material properly and make sure everyone -- save for himself, probably -- got paid. The man's a record geek's saint.) "Renouveau" moves off at the generally fast and furious tempo of the Afro-beat-inflected first three cuts (all excellent) into a much spacier, otherworldly space. Ballake is an utterly fantastic vocalist, whether he's laying out this moaning trance induction for outer -- and inner -- space; charging furiously through the Latin tinge in "Baden Ojougou"; or seductively groaning and boasting in a folk ballad like "Sali," which makes this -- along with the playing and production -- a psychedelic rocket ride. Ballake may be the most often-featured performer here, but he's far from the only star. Afro Soul System's "Tink Tank" is an Afro-beat-charged funk stomper with a burning guitar break. (One of the things that distinguishes Burkina Faso's pop music is the use of electric guitar way up front.) Another winner is the roiling, greasy funk of "Love Music and Dance" by Mamo Lagbema (contrast it with their "Zambo Zambo" later in the set for a shock). The brilliantly knotty guitar interplay on Orchestre CVD's "Rog Mik Africa" uses folk forms, rock, keyboard-driven rhythms, and chanted harmonies in an infectious, celebratory way. The furious percussion and organ on "Katougou" by Seydou Richard Traore is another wildly original take on Afro-beat. The bottom line is that Bambara Mystic Soul is as necessary as any of its predecessors, but is, taken on its own, a revelatory look at a music virtually hidden from the West and Europe before now.

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