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  A single post could take me months to put together; I worked on my last, still unpublished, project for over eight months, conducting two-dozen interviews, tracking down musicians in six countries and travelling to Kinshasa to follow up on leads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. 

Coumba Sidibe

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.   

Thanks for visiting, enjoy the music.  There's much more to come. 


  1. Congratulations Mattew, excellent contribution, I am very happy to meet you again.
    This is a beautiful recording of a very young Coumba Sidibé, voice is younger, than in the video "L'artiste et sa musique (RTM)" the RTM precursor of the ORTM, was created in 1983, then this audio may be older, and probably belongs to the RNM - Radio Nationale du Mali., previous to RTM.
    In addition Coumba is accompanied by a legendary kamalengoni interpreter, previous to Mamadou Sidibé (Madou), that one we see in the RTM video, here we have Bouroulaye Sidibé, known as Allata Broulaye.
    The theme -1, is called N'Taama Njonkon or (Tama ngnogon), it should mean, something like, Shifting together.
    A song of work, in honor of the cultivators and fishermen.

    Theme-2, is Fakoly Noumuye, the mythical song in honor of the blacksmiths.

    Theme -3, Deligllelma ó (Delygueleman) song that also sang Sali Sidibe, talking about the loss of all what we are accustomed to have.

    Theme -4, I suspect, although not sure, the name should be N'tanan.
    Thank you so much for sharing these wonders.

    1. thanks for pointing out that the ngonifola in the video is Mamadou Sidibe. he's my karamogo here in California.

  2. Hi Ngoni, Nice to hear from you again. Thank you so much for the information on this recording. I am thrilled to know more about this recording. I suspect that many of the recordings that Dramane Doumbia copied for me are from the RNM archive. I heard a story years back that many of the recordings of the Radio Nationale du Mali archive were destroyed during the Moussa Troare dictatorship. Do you know anything about this story? I can't remember the details, if it was a fire, or if there was a political motivation for destroying some of the archives.

    1. Hi Mattew, I do not know if there was a fire in the time of Moussa Traoré, I remember something about a partial fire in the ORTM in the time of ATT, I think it was a partial fire that affected some recordings, but not the main archives, there were many copies of recordings on shelves unsorted, ATT was trying to create a new station, of the national television to reorder and safeguard the recordings, the Malian government had a collaboration agreement with the Chinese government in place to finance the construction of the new station of the ORTM, in exchange China would install in Bamako a large Radio antenna, with capacity of reception in all all Africa and Europe, the coup d'état of Captain Sanogo frustrated the project, also during the coup, the followers of Sanogo, took the ORTM, and taking advantage of impunity, stole everything they wanted, including the whole, of the newly acquired digital video cameras of the entity.

  3. Hello Matthew, just found your (new) blog now, through a bloglist somewhere else. Remember the days of your blog at VoA, thanks for all those manguetic sounds. Will go through all your posts on this blog from the start: really love Coumba Sidibe's K7 and fantastic those handclaps in tracknr.3-Deligllelma ó!
    Will add your blog to my bloglist.
    Thanks again!!

    1. PS: What does the title of your blog mean?

    2. Hi. Thanks for adding the blog to your bloglist. I can't get enough of this Coumba Sidibe recording. Thanks for adding the blog to your blogroll. Wallahi le Zein is an expression of enthusiasm in the Hassaniya language. It can be roughly translated as, 'I swear to God that is great'. It is a phrase that Mauritanian musicians often use to encourage each other. If you listen closely to the two Dimi mint Abba recordings I have posted you can often hear Dimi exclaim 'wallahi le zein!' after someone has sung or played a phrase that moves her.

  4. Replies
    1. Hi, I have reposted the link to the Coumba Sidibe. Let me know if you have any other problems. Sorry for the hassle.

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