BOKME by Momo Wandel Soumah.
Greetings blogpeople! I wanted to say thanks to Corbett again for his posts. They were so well thought out and well written I'm a little embarrassed for myself. Must do better.
This week I'm going to share with you three of my favorite tunes from the great state of Africa. First off we'll have something from the city of Guinea. Momo Wandel Soumah was a huge star in Guinea, but as so often is the case, mostly unknown in the Western world. Here's how the Independent described his career:
A late flowering in the lengthy career of the visionary Guinean musician Momo Wandel Soumah brought him to the attention of world music fans, although the multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer never quite gained the recognition he deserved.Soumah was 77 in 2002--in April he played sold out London concerts, but unfortunately by June he was dead.
They released their first album, Matchowé, in 1992 on the French label Buda. Several well-received tours of Europe followed, but the death of two members meant that the follow-up, Afro Swing, didn't appear until 2001, on the Belgian imprint Fonti Musicali. Wandel Soumah's most recent success was as musical director of the Paris-based company Circus Baobab. In April this year , they performed three sold-out shows at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
Bokme is taken from the first album, "Matchowé." It was out of print but I found this track from the indispensable source of African music, Benn Loxo Du Taccu. Over there Soumah is described as a West African Tom Waits. That's not so evident on this particular song, though just like a good Tom Waits song Bokme is heavily influenced by jazz traditions without being jazz (or jazzy!). There is one interview where Wandel described his approach, and it is applicable here:
"I wanted to have jazz in my sound, but to associate it with folklore. Because I could hear something of jazz in my musical territory here. Every time I heard a jazz record, I thought that's a rhythm from here. There is the tam tam, the gingou, the little doun-doun."Bokme is a lithe major scale melody played on the balafon, given different textures by a series of solos on alto saxophone, idiophone, flute, and djembe. Soumah calls out a vocal to frame and reset the song. It's really lovely, peaceful, and engaging. A great start to Monday we think!
"The bolon that we play makes the same sound as the contrabass. So I brought that in. We tuned it, and it gave the rhythm. Then I added the flute and the djembe. No drums. A jazz drummer gives the tempo with the bass drum and does his fills on the snare and the toms. The djembe does the same thing in our group.
Photo: Street people (1).