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Audio: “Sayouwe” - Sorry Bamba Volume One 1970-1979


The saga of Sorry Bamba is a testament to the notion that great tragedy produces great art.  Born to a nobleman and and a veteran of the Emperor Samory Touré's army, Sorry was forbidden to pursue music in accordance with Mali’s rigid caste system.  But when he was orphaned at a very young age, Bamba took solace in music and by the age of 19 he had started his first band. A champion of Malian music, Sorry Bamba was a central figure in developing Mali’s post-colonial cultural identity. Now, over half a century after he began his musical journey, one of Mali’s premiere musicians is set to release a compilation of his greatest hits on Thrill Jockey Records.

Volume One 1970-1979 collects 10 songs from the height of Sorry Bamba’s career. A comforting mélange of blues, rock, and traditional Malian music, Sorry Bamba and his Kanaga Orchestra are prodigious ambassadors of Malian popular music. The compilation was put together by Alex Minoff and Ian Eagleson of the cross-continental afro-rock group Extra Golden. Minoff and Eagleson continue to show their appreciation for African music by working closely with Bamba to remaster many of his classic songs and bringing a few unreleased tracks to light.

Sorry Bamba: Volume One 1970-1979 is due out June 21st. Until then enjoy the sample track “Sayouwe," and download it here.

Sorry_Bamba-Sayouwe

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It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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