Friday, May 22, 2009


Listen to JOM by Lamine Konté.

Senegalese movie music. Mr. Konté passed away a couple of years ago. To the extent he was known in this country, it's probably for "Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants." As much as I enjoy (parts of) that album, you can imagine that's not really his career highlight. Here's a nice obituary that sums his career up rather better:

Paris, 02/10/2007 -
The Senegalese musician Lamine Konté died in the night of 28/29 September 2007. Konté will be remembered as one of the first artists to put a modern spin on the kora. He also goes down in music history as the man who set the work of some of the greatest poets from Africa and the African diaspora to music.

Konté eventually set up a new home for himself in France in 1971, where he caused a stir with his innovative style of kora-playing, recording three key albums: La kora du Sénégal (volumes 1 & 2) and Chant du Nègre, chant du monde. The two volumes of La kora du Sénégal are a veritable ‘tour de force’ of harmony and dexterity, fusing traditional Socé melodies with mbalax, Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz, soul and R&B. On Chant du Nègre, chant du monde Konté creates a stirring musical and vocal accompaniment to texts written by famous African literary figures.

Konté wrote some memorable film music in his time (including scores for Jacques Champreux’s Bako l’autre Rive, Jean Mazel’s Du Sénégal aux Amériques and Souleymane Cissé’s Baara). But one of the most outstanding highlights of his career was his collaboration on Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (originally a soundtrack to a documentary, this became a conceptual double album released in 1979 on which Wonder sang in Bambara). Konté once said that "working with such a remarkable figure was simply unforgettable – and all the more so when you think that this brilliant musician dares to do film music when he’s actually blind!"

Lamine Konté, an elegant, secretive and discreet figure loved and respected worldwide, was also passionate about history and an avid reader of Jean Diwo. In March 2005, Konté had taken to the stage in Paris to celebrate his 60th birthday with fans, friends and kin. Two of his cousins, Abdoulaye Diabaté and Moussa Cissokho (griots turned musicians like himself) joined Konté on stage on this occasion, Diabaté manning the piano, Cissokho pounding away on the sabar (a traditional drum) and Konté picking up his guitar and enchanting the audience with his mesmerising vocals. An evening as magical and unforgettable as the man himself!


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