Check out my new piece on OZY about El Hadj Sidikida Diabate, his sons, and the start of Guinean National Orchestras in West Africa.
On January 15, 1959, Sidikiba put together the first Guinean national orchestra, the Syli National Orchestra. The played at international festivals, including this one in 1969.
Check out more music and stories of the Guinean orchestras here on the blog.
In both of these clips of the successors to the Syli National Orchestra, you can hear the strong Latin and Afro-Cuban influences in the music. Guinean bands seemed to just miss the world music craze in the 1980s, but they laid the foundations for strong orchestras that celebrated the past and looked toward the future.
Although later than the time period I focused on in the OZY piece, this is one of my favorite videos of Bembeya Jazz. They get so funky, both with their music and dancing.
One of the most well-known groups from Guinea is Bembeya National Jazz, featured in the documentary above in color. Afropop Worldwide did an excellent piece on Bembeya with music and interviews. Music Time in Africa also has a blog entry on Bembeya, with a focus on the treasure Leo Sarkisian, the first Westerner to record the Guinean musicians. Sekou "Bembeya" Diabate was the lead guitarist, and had his first guitar lesson from Sidikiba's son, Papa Diabate, who had learned western music at the conservatory in Dakar, Senegal.
Horoya Band was another well-known and well-traveled national orchestra from Guinea. These bands combined more western instrumentation with the traditional beats and themes of traditional music. You can listen to recordings from 1957 (before independence) here.
Come in, the stacks are open.
Away from prying eyes, damaging light, and pilfering hands, the most special collections are kept in closed stacks. You need an appointment to view the objects, letters, and books that open a door to the past.