Out June 2007. Compilation of rare tracks. Malian dance music of the 70's. exist in CD and LP. More titles on CD.
Between 1978 & 1979, the Rail Band orchestra left Bamako, capital city of Mali, for a tour in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, West Africa. This was an inspired move from their former manager Burkinabe Mady Sanfo, as this trip would be the starting point of international careers for artists such as Mory Kanté (Rail Band’s lead singer since Salif Keita’s departure in 1972), Cheikh Tidiane Seck (piano & organ), band leader Tidiani Koné (saxophone & trumpet) or Djelimady Tounkara (lead guitar). It also gave a new breath to the 10 year old Rail Band orchestra.
Malian popular music styles were already quite popular in West Africa and Europe. The Malian government was willing to define a consistent national identity through cultural policies that also encouraged local cultural expressions. Since the 1960 independance, the main cities’ regional orchestras (Kayes, Mopti, Gao, Sikasso…) received public grants as well as Bamako’s Rail Band. Cultural festivals were officially held from the end of the1960’s throughout the 70’s. Those events reminded Malians & foreigners that Mali had a complex diversity and a conscious unity despite the recent colonial disaster. The Malian State also encouraged the spreading of Malian musics beyond the countries’ frontiers. The reception by other West Africans might have been favoured by their exposure to Malian cultural expressions during the long Malian empire domination prior to the European colonization. Important migrations to Ivory Coast and Senegal led to the establishment of large groups of Malian peoples in those hosting lands during the post-colonial period.
Malian migrants living in Abidjan remained closely related to their homeland and massively attended the Rail Band live shows & presentations during the 78-79 tours. Mali’s most famous modern music orchestra went threw important changes during this stay away from home as well as it helped migrants to maintain the communication with Bamako. Moreover, the economic capital of Ivory Coast also attracted peoples from Ivorian provinces, among which a large portion of Northern Ivory Coast and Southern Mali Dioula. Together with their Bambara, Soninke, Sarakoule or Mossi neighbours, they were all quite sensitive to the Rail Band melodies.
Abidjan and the African show business.
Abidjan was the only place to be for a West African artist who wanted to take off internationally before the cocoa prices crashed and a Parisian African music industry developed in France in the early 80’s. Dozens of artists came to this city before conquering the world : Salif Keïta, Kanté Manfila, Mory Kanté, Laba Sosseh, Djelimady Tounkara, Sam Mangwana but also Youssou N’Dour, Tabu Ley Rochereau & so many others… A success in the Abidjan scene was the great way to be recognized as an African star. The work opportunities at that time in Abidjan attracted numerous lesser known musicians such as Nigerian saxophonist Dexter Johnson, Gambian guitarist Francis Kingsley, Guinean guitarist Mamadi Diabaté and loads of Congolese, Cameroonese, Malians, Ghanaians, Nigerians… Those studio musicians were familiar with recording techniques and « live » performance, and they certainly improved Abidjan’s music industry.
There were also many record producers. Some of them were not necessarily pros, others real crooks, but they all took advantage of a period that was very profitable for the record industry and entertainment in general and generated massive investments in record production and live shows. The cosmopolitan trading neighbourhoods of Treichville or Abobo housed an international African show business structure, linking West Africa to Paris, New York & a few other Western cities. Record stores & small labels owned by Beninese, Senegalese, Lebanese, French or Burkinabe traders offered a very diverse choice of West African musics to Abidjan’s public. Some of them could even reach the African European markets threw distributing or licensing in France, Belgium & the United States.
Djelimady Tounkara & the Rail Band’s renewal.
It was Djelimady Tounkara who restructured the Rail Band to give birth to the Super Rail Band international. Tidiani Koné gave up on his leadership over the group and joined the Poly Rythmo orchestra in Cotonou, Benin. Mory Kanté, lead singer, found solo careeer opportunities and recorded his first album without the Rail Band. Djelimady’s new Rail Band played live very often, either at local open air weekend balls such as the ones held at Ifossi’s dance hall, or in large Malian & Ivorian Dioulas baptism & marriage ceremonies.
Djelimady’s brother Issa Tounkara played the bass, Cheikh Tidiane Seck was at the organ & Djelimoussa Kouyaté on the backing guitar. The rest of the personnel is uncertain (possibly Dexter Johnson on saxophone). They recorded their « Affair Social » LP for Nigerian producer Lassissi (tracks 2, 5, 7 & 8) at the Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) in poor studio conditions, revealing the technical limits of the local record industry. But Lassissi’s international distribution network guaranteed a modest visibility to the group in Western countries’ record stores.
During the same period, manager Mady Sanfo was also the producer of three LP’s led by Tounkara. The quality of those Togolese OTODI recordings is much better than the RTI sessions. Djelimady developed a side project called Trio Manding du Mali together with D. Kouyate & I. Tounkara. The sound of this short lived group was very similar to Rail Band’s OTODI sessions. Female singer Sadio Kouyaté (who was singing live with Djelimady by then) and Ghanaian organist (possibly Ernest Honny) joined for an unusual meeting between mandingo singing style & jazzy piano on track 1. On tracks 3, 4 & 6, the group is credited as Djelimady Tounkara et le Rail Band du Mali. Those tunes differ quite strongly from the earlier band’s style, whether it’s straight manding style melted with jazzy influenced organ or Malian disco funk.
The late seventies and early eighties were the beginning of an era for Mali’s most proeminent group. The recordings evidence the new leader’s talent, who gave the group a new breath for quite a long time. While Djelimady proved how skilled accomplished and creative he was as a guitar virtuoso or an inventive leader. He is the proeminent influence behind those Rail Band’s recordings which are quite singular compared to the group’s remaining discography.