Monday, June 27, 2011

Sorry Bamba

I've got a review up at Blurt of a collection from Malian bandleader Sorry Bamba...which I just didn't like as much as I expected to...

Sorry Bamba
Volume 1: 1970-1979
(Thrill Jockey)

Thrill Jockey collects the early works of Sorry Bamba, one of Mali's pre-eminent post-colonial bandleaders, in this first of two planned installments. The compilation, put together by Bamba himself, as well as Extra Golden's Alex Minoff and Ian Eagelson, spans the artist's years with the Kanaga Orchestra. During this period, from the mid- to late-1970s, in a series of government-sponsored biennial competitions, Bamba and his orchestra re-framed traditional Malian music in electrified (and occasionally electrifying) terms.

Culture is always political, but never more so than when a new republic is establishing its own identity after many years of foreign rule. Sorry Bamba emerged as an artist during the fertile years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Mali's first president, Modibo Keita, began to promote his country's music through Radio Mali, concerts and competitions. Sorry Bamba thrived in this environment by being more than a musician, or even a conductor. His tasks - preserving culture, bringing arcane traditions into the modern era, demonstrating the value of indigenous music and dance - had political, as well as artistic, overtones. He was, for instance, one of the first to popularize the music and dance of the Dogon people, a little-understood tribe living in the cliffs and caves around Mopti, who were known for elaborate masked funeral dances, and he also incorporated traditions from the Peul people. So, while Sorry Bamba's music had undeniable physical appeal - his biggest hit, "Yayoroba", was a song about women with unusually large posteriors - it was also a form of propaganda or at least a shoring up of national identity.



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