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V/A - Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974-1979

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Artist: V/A

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

Label: Analog Africa

Review date: Oct. 25, 2011

Bambara Mystic Soul takes the search for rare 1970s groove music into rough territory. The landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso, which was known until 1984 as Upper Volta, doesn’t top any lists besides the ones you don’t want to be on, like child mortality and the percentage of the population suffering from malnutrition. The country didn’t have civilian radio until 1939, and in the ’50s it took music from the U.S. a year to reach Voltan ears. But it’s not totally isolated. In the ’70s, when the music on this record was made, a large part of the population migrated to neighboring countries to do agricultural work. More recently despite the encroachment of the growing Sahara and collateral economic damage from civil conflicts in neighboring Mali, Niger and Ivory Coast, people survive and thrive.

Since 2006, the Frankfurt-based DJ has split his time between searching for vinyl in Africa and Latin American and fashioning compilations like this one that skim the best dance-floor fillers and soul-touchers from his collection. Your typical Analog Africa release not only serves up a world of new but approachable music, it takes you on a journey. Bambara Mystic Soul comes with a 44-page booklet that chronicles Redjeb’s record searches, as well as the smells and sights and illnesses he encountered whilst searching in Burkina Faso and other African countries for these records. It also introduces you, via recent interviews, to the people who made these records more than 30 years ago, and dishes dirt like the story about a government official who put paid to efforts to build a pressing plant in the capital city, Ouagadougou. If you’re inclined to geek out over stories embedded with trivia, Analog Africa has your back.

But records are for playing, not reading, and AA is on your side there, too. Redjeb is a DJ as well as a collector, and he has good sequencing instincts. His selections on Bambara Mystic Soul adhere to criteria similar to the ones he applied when assembling Legends Of Benin, Angola Soundtrack, and Afro-Beat Airways. He bypasses folkloric material in favor of music that reflects the influence of Latin American rhythms, U.S. soul music, and the burgeoning popular music industries of neighboring countries.

You can hear Congolese traces in the loping beat and fleet guitar figures of Orchestre CVD’s “Rog Mik Africa,” James Brown in Jean Claude Bamongo’s tonsil-inflaming screams on Afro Soul System’s organ-heavy “Tink Tank,” straight-up disco bass on Mamo Lagbema’s libidinous “Love, Music And Dance” (the only song in English), and a late-night Cuban swoon in Amadou Ballaké’s “Baden Djougou.” What you won’t hear is something that defines this music as essentially Voltan. Unless you have an ear that can distinguish the various Mosse, Fula and Mande languages or local French accents sung here, what stands out is the way these songs sound like a mix of Ivorian, Congolese, Beninese and Malian, as well as non-African influences. But you’ll also hear some mighty swell tunes full of liquid guitar licks, spidery organ runs, and singers who know how to make you pay attention even if you don’t know what they’re saying. Even in the best of times, living in Burkina Faso isn’t easy; if you’re surviving, you’ve got something to celebrate, and that’s the spirit this collection exudes.

By Bill Meyer

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