I bought this on a whim as a download as I had read the guitar player Sekou 'Diamond Fingers' Diabate was a great player. This CD is a live recording, I downloaded from Amazon as the CD was pretty dear, be warned there are two downloads of the same album, the one I got has more tracks but abruptly stops after each track rather spoiling the flow for a live album. As with other African music I have listened to the sound quality is so so but made up for in atmosphere, if you are used to listening to punk/DIY music or bootleg live albums by rock acts, as I am, it is not so bad.
As for the music it is very much in the super club samba style of African pop as opposed to the High Life or Afrobeat found in other African music, this is not a bad thing just be aware it feels like Cuban music (which of course it would have influenced) rather than funk or rock flavor found in CDs by Fela etc. The songs and singing are lilting, usually two or three chords played with a ringing guitar tone and lots of brass, the main stand out is the previously mentioned Diamond Fingers who lives up to his name through out. He has a unique guitar sound, trebly with loads of reverb and a feel that crosses the fleet scales of bebop with the spacious modal feel of John McLaughlin on In A Silent Way, I am reminded of Tom Verlaine as the sound is brittle but soulful and avoid obvious cliched blues bending. Each track has a least one blazing solo, sometimes more.
Over all I would say a great CD for relaxing on a Sunday morning which is taken to the next level by the wondrous guitar work.
This is a wonderful document of a great band at the peak of their powers, exemplifying the beautiful music created by the 'authenticité' movement in Guinea during the late 1960s and 1970s. Bembeya Jazz were the premier 'national orchestra' of Guinea, funded and promoted by President Sékou Touré's regime in the name of cultural nationalism. They combined a dazzling array of influences from Cuban rumba to big-band swing to Manding oral tradition into a heady, exciting brew that's brilliantly captured on this album, their ten-year anniversary concert at the People's Palace in Conakry in 1971. The first song proper, the nine-minute epic Temtemba, is probably my favourite African track, with virtuoso solos from the guitarists and brass section building to a super-charged finale delivered by lead singer Demba Camara. Things calm down a bit after that but the music stays top-notch throughout, and the crowd is so loudly enthusiastic you almost feel like you're there. I wish I had been.
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