Until recently not much was known about music from Burkina Faso, formerly called the Upper Volta. It is still one of West Africa lesser known forms of popular music. A few years before the country changed its name to Burkina Faso, thanks to Thomas Sankara’s dream for a new society, Voltaic music emerged as some form of true cultural revolution. Remote, poor and isolated, Burkina Faso looked to the orchestras and artists from neighbouring countries such as Mali, The Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin. Located at its northern border, Niger is the only other West African country whose music stayed as isolated as the music hailing from Burkina Faso. Most of its bands and artists hail mostly from Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. They infuse some of the rich local traditions, such as mossi dances or dioula singing, with afrocuban flavours, American rhythm ‘n’ blues, French pop or Congolese rumba. Electric guitars and organs swirl around balafon and solid horn sections. Despite the fact that the 1960’s and 1970’s Upper Volta lacked a proper recording studio and record pressing plant, there was a great deal of popular music produced in the country from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s, mostly on seven inches.
With over thirty 7 inches released, Bobo-Dioulasso’s Volta Jazz is the most prolific of those Voltaic bands. One of their hymns, composed and sung by sax player Moustapha Maiga is Djougou Malola. Praising Bobo and its inhabitants, this amazing bolero embodies perfectly the thinness, remoteness and grace of modern Voltaic music. On the same emotional level, Nogleem Nooma is one of the loveliest ballads to have come out of Burkina Faso. A short instrumental number Killa Naa Ye Killa displays the masterful playing of Sempore, perfectly at ease with his tenor saxophone, his flute and band direction.
Hailing from Sifarasso in south west Burkina, Richard Seydou Traore is one of Burkina’s most elegant musicians, Rassemblement is a tongue in cheek number nodding to American jerk rhythm with military orders sung in French. A close friend of Traore, Jean-Bernard Samboue belonged to the same generation of students coming of age in the early 1970’s. Aicha stands certainly as his best song. With the help of his band, Mange Konde recorded three singles released under his own name. Beni Idjananko is reminiscent of the great mandingo songs from Guinea. Warm and fierce, Woulouni displays some exceptional groove virtues. Born in Boulsa in 1947, Pierre Sandwidi is one of the most beloved Voltaic stars. One of his stronger moment, the infectious Yamb Ney Capitale benefits from the participation of Super Volta musicians. A true highlight of Voltaic music, Super Volta’s La Guitare de Tinga displays the masterful guitar playing of Desire Traore and the artistic maturity of one of Burkina’s best bands. The same musicians are to be found on Abdoulaye Cisse’s Jeunesse Wilila. He reached for fame in 1974 with A Son Magni, one of CVD first 7 inches while the b-side, L’homme a la Guitare gave him an instant nickname. In 1976, he recorded another four song session, done live at the Maison du Peuple with a simple Akai tape stereo recorder. A true masterpiece and a generational hymn, Jeunesse Wilila is an ode to the empowerment of the youth to build up the country, fifteen years after its independance. A perfect blend between afro-funk and afro-beat, Deny tologuelen is the last release of the Volta Discobel, just after owner Master Boureima’s death. Intense, fresh and full of creativity with vocal interjections one could think might stem from Jean Rouch’s cult movie Cocorico Monsieur Poulet, it is a true and unsung masterpiece. The Authentique Dafra Star de Bobo-Dioulasso had the opportunity to record two full albums and a dozen singles, almost released locally on the Music Hall record label. One of the highlights of the band’s repertoire is Ram Pasonaye, sung with passion by Siaka ‘Elvis’ Ouattara. In the same league as the Dafra Star, Echo Del Africa was one of Bobo’s finest bands. Six years later, this band was able to release their first 7 inch in August 1974 under the brand Discaf, owned by Antoine D’Albin, one of the band first singers. The next release is the politically correct 1975, Annee De La Femme, sung by bandleader Jose Thiono-By. On the b-side, the fi erce younger singer Youssou Diarra stole the show with Yiri Wah, one of the hardest sounding songs from Burkina Faso in the 1970’s.
Voltaiques Panoramique contains great unheard tracks from Burkina Faso a true must have for collectors and music lovers. The release comes with extensive liner notes and an inlay which features the original 7 inches.