Back in 2007 I started the African Music Treasures Blog (on the Voice of America site). My goal with that blog was not only to feature rare and wonderful recordings from the VOA’s massive archive—the entire collection has been digitized by the University of Michigan, check it out!—but to reconstruct the stories behind the music. Each post was a research project built on interviews with musicians, record producers, journalists, historians and musicologists. A single post could take me months to put together; I worked on my last, still unpublished, project for over eight months, conducting two-dozen interviews, tracking down musicians in six countries and travelling to Kinshasa to follow up on leads (stay tuned for the history of the Orchestre Kiam). In the four years I ran the blog I only posted 45 articles.
In 2011, a compilation of Mauritanian guitar music that I thought about for ten years and spent two years putting together was released. My goal was to follow this first release with a series of compilations (Mauritanian singers, contemporary Hausa music—have you heard Osama bin Music?—contemporary Moroccan Aita, etc…) This didn’t, for lots of reasons, happen. (I was thrilled, however, that this blog post motivated Afro 7 to release this wonderful compilation of Somali music.) And although I am proud of the work done for the African Music Treasures blog and the compilations, I have remained disappointed by how little music I have been able to help draw attention to.
Over the last several years I have thought often about starting a new blog, a site featuring more music and less research. This idea, too, has been pushed aside by other projects. Then, a month ago, while scrolling through the blogs I visit regularly, I saw that Likembe was back!! And just as back in 2007 John was one of the persons who inspired me to start African Music Treasures, the rebirth of Likembe gave me the push I needed to get back online.
This blog will feature the African music I love most, home recordings of Mauritanian Divas, non-commercial recordings of Luba roots music from the Kasai, Diola Bugarabu cassettes from Senegal, and other rarities.
This first post features two recordings.
Thanks for visiting, enjoy the music. There's much more to come.
Worldservice, the site for deep Malian music, has posted several terrific videos from this period in Coumba Sidibe’s career. I found these recordings in Bamako, in 2003, when, while looking to purchase a tube of toothpaste, I came across the market stall of Dramane Doumbia. His father was a technician at the national radio and had copied a considerable portion of the ORTM archive. Dramane sold cassette copies of these recordings for 1,000CFA. I spent a few hours going through the collection and a week later, on my way to the airport, picked up the 100 cassettes that Dramane had dubbed for me.
On my last trip to Bamako, in 2014, I tried to get in touch with Dramane. No luck.
There are some recordings that I never tire of, that I can listen to again and again. These Coumba Sidibe tracks are on the list.
My first African Music Treasures post featured two tracks off this timeless Bizimungu Dieudonne cassette. Ten years later I still, unfortunately, don’t know anything more about Bizimungu than when I first wrote about him. Here is Bizimungu Dieudonne’s glorious Inzovu Y’imirindi in its entirety.