Out June 2007. Compilation of rare & unrealised tracks. Malian funk music of the 70's. exist in CD and LP. More titles on CD.
Moussa Doumbia was a saxophonist, arranger, author/composer who used African American funk as his main inspiration during the 1970’s. Living in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa, the Malian artist recorded an audacious music for a restricted public, with the help of two French American producers based there, Cathy & Albert Loudes.
Moussa Doumbia probably arrived in Abidjan circa 1974. He played live music at his residency in a fancy nightclub owned by a French man, the Boule Noire, in a trading cosmopolitan neighbourhood called Teichville. Armchairs, imported drinks & spotlights were fair enough to turn the Boule Noire into a central spot for the dancefloor funk amateurs. Office & business employees would get to Treich’ at the end of the day to have a beer in one of the numerous maquis (cheaper, local food, usually open air, restaurants) or a lebanese chawarma. They would melt with the heterogeneous population there, mostly West African & Lebanese businessmen & their employees. But only the richest of them would afford the Boule Noire during the whole week, while most of them would wait until Saturday night to go to the local ball. Treich’ also was an important crossroads for the local music industry and concentrated most of the important producers & record retailers. Lido Musique, Sacodis, Saffiedine, the pioneers were there when records were a more affordable leisure than others to the poorer ones.
Moussa Doumbia and the Société Ivoirienne du Disque
Moussa Doumbia lived by the scene & had a place in Treich’, not far from the club. He would play there every night for the locals, mostly Dioula people from Northern Ivory Coast & Southern Mali, for which he would sing in his native language, the Dioula. Described as an enthusiast, cheerfull person by the people who met him, he was a rigorous professional who wouldn’t drink or smoke and could play for hours without a break for his own pleasure. He would hold the microphone, shout, rap & sing, blow his sax, hit a drum…all night long. As original as Nigerian musican Fela Kuti, Moussa Doumbia played a music hardly heard in that part of Africa. Bete, Baoule, Dioula, Mossi peoples who came from all Ivory Coast & the neighbouring countries (Guinea, Mali & Burkina Faso mostly) to Abidjan didn’t really enjoy Fela’s afrobeat. James Brown would stand as a major artist in record stores and on the radio, but local artists wouldn’t play this funk music home. The public usually prefered, when it came to imported music, the Afro Cuban style from New York, Puerto Rico or Cuba. He loved French pop singers like Johnny Halliday, Sylvie Vartan or Mireille Mathieu. Or played international instrumental easy listening by Ray Conniff’s or Paul Mauriat’s orchestras. But Moussa Doumbia was lucky enough to settle in Abidjan at the same time as the first French speaking West African record company, the Société Ivoirienne du Disque (SID). Even at a small scale, the SID built a recording studio, imported a record press & developped a national distribution network, giving more independance to the local record industry. Both SID owners and their main arranger/co-artistic director, African American sax player Greg Skelton, with their American background, were exactly the people Moussa Doumbia needed to record his music there.
The SID recordings were not the best though. On such tunes as « Femme Sénégal » (12) or the long version of « Keleya » (11), the semi-professional sound engineers working at SID and Moussa Doumbia’s arranger skills show real limits. During that specific recording session, Doumbia was backed by a ten pieces band when he usually played with a funk quintet. Even though guitar player Francis Kingsley or organist Cheikh Muhammad « Smith » were excellent musicians, we can clearly hear they didn’t rehearse enough, nor did the sound engineers manage to obtain a clear sound on their two tracks table. The sound was hard, agressive, and sold pretty bad at that time, despite the producers hopes and attempts to export the music to Western Countries. It was not until the late 90’s that Moussa Doumbia’s raw & nasty afro funk rocked London, Paris & New York’s dancefloors.
Moussa Doumbia’s original synthesis of funk & African rhythms is comparable to Fela Kuti’s, Poly Rythmo’s or Ebo Taylor’s. It reflects what was yesterday’s urban culture of a small part of Abidjan’s population. Doumbia used to sing mostly in Dioula. His every day life was very African : he would share a small hut with his wife not far from the club where he played. On one hand, he was a cosmopolitan, who had lived in Paris for several years, was fascinated by African American music, and could sing in both French and English. And even when he played his funk over Dioula or Mandingue rhythmic patterns, his sound would still be quite far from Mali’s Rail Band or Guinea’s Super Boiro afro mandingue pop. His saxophone was always funky, dirty, raw & syncopated. But on the other hand he would choose Dioula to express himself most of the time. An unheard music he would play, giving up sometimes on funk breaks for more hybrid compositions that melted African rhythmic elements to funk or afrobeat arrangements. « Samba » (2) & « Nambara » (10) played on afrobeat/afrofunk tempo, were taken from the Guinean folklore tune made famous by South African singer Myriam Makeba. Most of all, his inspiring themes were African answers to universal questions : relationships between men and women as in « Keleya » (jealousy, 4), greed as in « Wanri » (money, 6), religion with « Faux Marabout » (9). Even if he could sing in French or in English as in « Black & white » (7), or use funk as a musical background, his lyrics could only be understood by a small scale public who lived the way described in his songs.
Moussa Doumbia came back to France circa 1980 and worked there as a record seller at Richard Dick’s « Salsa Musique » store. He went back to Mali a while later, where he is known as « James », probably a reference to James Brown, and died there.
The music industry & the media never really gave a chance to Moussa Doumbia. His discography was as hard to get as was his story to tell. But his work definitely deserves full aknowledgment and respect, not just because he was an original powerful saxophonist, but also because he never gave up on expressing himself the way he wanted, melting cultures together in an original modern way.