N° 76
August 09, 2004

Talents in the shop window
We have opened one of the more glorious and prestigious pages of the Malian music even African Pantheon. And that to remind you that its pioneers who ensured the promotion of this artistic inheritance at the four corners of the world and prepared the ground of the actual cultural radiance of Mali while remaining, even dead, pure sources of inspiration four the rising generation. Bazoumana Sissoko "Banzoumana Ba", Tara Bouaré, Siramory Diabaté, Lamissa Bengaly, Koni Koumaré, Méruba, Fodé Kouyaté … left us. But the heritage they left to us continues to make our pride.

Banzoumana Sissoko: The old Lion
"In my time, the roots of a person always determined the quality of the man", Ba Zoumana Sissoko used to say. "The Griot of the griots" or "the Old lion" had always taught that dignity is the essence of all the virtues. In addition to dignity, the Old lion who ceased roaring on December 29th, 1987 had courage, fidelity, conviction, temerity and talent as qualities.
Born blind in Koni (Tamani, Segou), this myth of nature will very early be paralytic. Far from being a handicap, the old Lion, with a savage determination and an extraordinary know-how, a sparkling way of playing of n’goni, an emotive voice, managed to become famous on all the artistic scenes. From Bamako to the various African European, Asian or American capitals, the inimitable Ba Zoumana became famous everywhere he passed.
Rebel in the soul, the "Old lion", as he was respectfully called, remained faithful to his convictions. Thus, after the independence, when he was asked to record his repertory, he accepted and refused the praises "exclusive property of his Djatigui" (Host). The only concession he made is the song "Mali Ba kèra awn tayé" (This beautiful country with its glorious past became ours, that is to say independent) magnifying our new sovereignty.
The Great Master of the tariks considered his magic N’goni as his only partner of life, the "only one which never betrays". The immortal Ba Zoumana Sissoko touches the Malians with all the national events (September 22nd, January 20th, March 26th, death of a great personality of the nation or of a friend country …) in very varied modes of expression. Even if today, the author of the National anthem is not alive any more, his rich repertory continuous to be exploited by the rising generation of artist, in particular Teningnini Damba, one of his daughters which exclusively built her success on the hits of her late father. Today, his famous N’goni is among the mythical and legendary parts of the national Museum of Bamako.

Lamissa Bengaly: Young in his soul and in his music
Many talented artists followed Ba Zoumana on the paths of honour. With his thundering voice, Lamissa Bengaly enormously contributed to the promotion of the balaphon in Mali and abroad. Proud, frank, faithful and talented, he has first used of his art to motivate the ardour of the Senoufos brave men to the task.
Born in Falou, in the district of Nkourala (Sikasso), Lamissa was the friend of young people whom he never ceased sensitizing, guiding and pushing towards patriotism through songs which then became popular. It’s through them (songs) that Mali, Africa even the whole world discovered and appreciated Senoufo culture still unknown at that time in spite of its immense richness and diversity. Nowadays the torch is held by young artists very well known and who became the new ambassadors of the senoufo balaphon. Lamissa continuous to live through its rich and varied repertory.

Toumani Koné: Virtuoso of the doson N’goni
After N’gonifo Bourama, the greatest player of Donso N’goni was Toumani Koné. He unfortunately stopped playing when he lost his fingers. The father of the young revelation of Wassoulou, Mamah Toumani Koné, nevertheless represents a generation which popularized Donso N’goni. Story-teller and poet, Toumani Koné had a powerful voice that he managed to preserve all the long of his marvellous career in order to exhort the hunters to surpass and be heroic. Two of his famous hits have just been sung again by the diva of Wassoulou “Oumou Sangaré” in the double compilation she has just put on sale on the Malian market. Toumani Koné until his death has always been a symbol of courage, of bravery, fidelity and honesty for the Malian youth in particular and African in general.

Koni Koumaré: Royal professional singer
Died on February 12th, 1999, Koni Koumaré was the first Malian professional singer to be recorded at the Radio Soudan, in 1952. And it’s Ba Zoumana Sissoko who accompanied her with the N’goni. Born in Cinzani (Segou), Koni was the principal driving force of the Sumu of the "Diamana tiguis" (kings or chiefs of tribe) of Segou. It’s her brother Sinè Koumaré, state nurse at that time who will bring her to Bamako for her artistic promotion. She was only 15 years old. With a divine voice and a perfect control of the songs and Bamanan tariks, Koni Koumaré also recorded a disc in France.
Considered, rightly, by a lot of observers like the first great female star of Mali, she was the adulated and respected professional singer of the founder families of Bamako (Niaré and Touré). And during her brilliant career, a Djatigui has once offered her a slave and another gave her his… small finger! She went away at 85 years leaving four orphans.
To be continued…

Siramory Diabaté: The superb voice of Mande
Her voice was so beautiful and so powerful that her aunt was forced to use supernatural powers to protect her from jealousy, covetousness and bewitching which are habits of her caste. Despite this protection, Siramory Diabaté lost brutally her voice. But already female griot star, she was saved by the traditional healers and one of them predicts to her: "when you will open the mouth to sing from now on, all the other professional singers will keep silent out of emotion".
This prophecy realized because from there, the voice of Siramory Diabaté will give shivers to the Mandékaw (inhabitants of Mande, a major natural area of Mali). This deep voice, developed by the balaphon of her husband Namory Kouyaté, revalorized the rich repertory of Mande. Siramory was almost the only professional singer whose talent woke up in the Mandékaw the pride and bravery.
And her fetish song, Sara depicts eloquently what made the glory of the "massarenw" (inhabitants of Mande): the respect of the promise. Like Ba Zoumana, she celebrated the independent Mali. And like the Old Lion, the Nightingale refused the praises of the leaders and rich person of her time because her only Djatigui was the Mande. For the elegant and eloquent Siramory, "dignity is the udder to which all the virtues suck without distinction of race, but always in the mercy of Allah".

Tara Bouaré: The golden voice of the Bara
Singer of charm of the Bara, a limpid voice but a bit retro: it’s the image cultivated by Tara Bouaré, disappeared in 1971. Brilliant pearl of the Bamanan folklore, she has pelted Kala with her songs celebrating unity, solidarity and love. And her love songs and her poetry allowed her to flout her time. Her fetish title, "Sanu nèguèni" (golden stem), saying in substance that no reign is eternal, was the patriotic song of the revolution of March 1991 through the unity of audio-visual production, "Sorofé", of the Cultural Co-operative Jamana. It’s the proof that her musical ingeniousness forged a footbridge between various generations.

Méruba: The Bamanan Nightingale
Miérou Baba or "Méruba" incontestably was one of the most outstanding personalities of the musical history of Macina and Segou. Méruba is the musical Nightingale hoisted to the summit of art and torn off from the affection of his kingdom in a traffic accident between Macina and Segou. His know-how and his vocal beauty, which made the sensitive souls quiver, enabled him to mark his time.

Fodé Kouyaté: the Panafricanist
If a Malian voice could compete with the ones of the largest international musicians; it was without contest the one of Fodé Kouyaté. This artist who cries out, high and strong , his membership of the caste of the griots, was a famous musician in Western Africa, Europe and in the country of uncle Sam.
Born around 1963 in Kita (185 km of Bamako), in a environment anchored in music, Fodé is before all a child of Africa for whom the well done work, generosity, the respect of the other are bases which support the organisation of personal life. He loses his father at 9 years old.
However, if his mother had disliked music, his father on the other hand, evolved within the orchestra of Kita before the independence of Mali. Concerning his initiation, Fodé said that, "I was initiated to music since my tender childhood. It’s especially my uncle, Badié Sissoko, a blind man, who inspired me a lot. I took his stick and I led him to the family’s ceremonies: baptism, marriage and others. He was an excellent musician. Then his company really initiated me to music. It even forms a part of my basic education ". it was in 1996. He strengthened his talent at the contact of others great musicians like his father-in-law Batrou Sékou Kouyaté, a virtuoso of Kora.
it’s starting from the 10th class (school year 80/81) that Fodé will embrace his musical career by passing first by the theatrical formations then the regional orchestra of Kita and the orchestra of Kayes, "Félou Star". Then he exile during ten years in Ivory Coast where late president Felix Houphouët-Boigny became his sponsor…
He worked with Jimmy Hyacinthe, who was the best arranger of Ivory Coast. But his ambitions will oblige him to leave the softness and the quietude of the lagoon Ebrié to settle down in France where he had finally acquired the technical knowledge of another musical culture. During his career, the messenger of peace that he was, launched in the combat of the rehabilitation of the image of the "djéli" (griot) and of African integration. Nterikè (1984), An ka wili (1992) and Djéliya (1996) are the masterpieces of a brilliant and early career of the Panafricanist.
Love, society, injustice, peace and integration were the topics approached in his various compositions. From his union with Diamy Kouyaté, the preferred girl of Batrou Sékou Kouyaté, were born three children (a girl and two boys). Convinced patriot, Fodé exhorted, through his songs like "Year ka wili", his compatriots to work, to well done work. So, he made a point of being present at the signature of the national Pact which signed the return of peace in the North.
Ambassador of the music and Malian culture, he died on October 25th, 1996, at the national hospital of the Point G, from the continuations of a cerebrospinal meningitis at the time of the design of the model of his 4e album… and a lot of other projects.