Audio
Amsterdam Ticket 1987 line-up, from left to right: Africanova, Canjo Amissi, Aloys Gasuku, Tula Walupini, Diamond Ilunga. Seated: Member Bruno S., Goretti Habonimana, Amida Hassan V.,Chantal Nibizi. Photo courtesy of Afro7 Records.

A Rare Album From Burundi's Most Popular 1980s Group, Amabano, Resurfaces

1987's Amsterdam Ticket sees the Burundian group blending psych & funk influences with Congolese rumba and Burundian traditional music. It's getting a reissue from Afro7 Records.

Even though African music of the past four decades is being rediscovered, catalogued and reissued by foreign labels at an accelerating speed, music from the East-Central African nation of Burundi remains somewhat of a blind spot to collectors who are not from the region.

Western audiences have long associated the country with pop hits by singer Khadja Nin (based in Belgium since 1980) or even with "Burundi Black" (1971), the worldwide hit by French pianist Michel Bernholc (alias Mike Steiphenson) that sampled a recording from 1968 of traditional Burundian drumming. There are two vinyl releases from 1980 and 1987 that hint at the unknown history of Burundian pop music, records that have gained grail status among collectors, even though the story behind those LPs has never been told in full.

The first is a 7-LP box, released by Radio Nederland in 1980 (only 80 copies were made), containing the 100 entries to a band competition that the station organised for undiscovered talent from the Francophone African region. Among them was Amabano, the group that would become one of the two winners of the Concours du Moulin D'or (Golden Windmill contest), and who were invited to pick up their trophy, tour and record an album in a well-equipped studio in the Netherlands. The four tracks featured on the promotional vinyl are dreamy, mid-tempo psych-funk grooves with a touch of jazz and rumba, sung in the Kirundi language. The other LP, by the same group, was released in 1987 on the Soviet Union's Melodiya label in two different editions, each limited to 1000 copies, and now near-impossible to find. 'Gasuku' was not a delayed release of their previous Dutch recordings, but a new set of songs, put to tape by a Soviet team that had travelled Burundi for the occasion. Like their 1980s contest entries, the 'Gasuku' album had a musical approach that was deeply rooted in psych, funk and rumba of the 1970s.

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