SEYDOU KOITA, The Rabat Rehearsal Demos

Seydou Koita is the hardest working and most talented guitar player on the Burkinabe music scene today.  He is the guitar player of choice for Burkina's biggest stars, has participated in over 80 recordings, and has mastered styles ranging from the Bajorou music of Mali to the Zouglou of the Cote D'Ivoire.  He performs seven days a week, playing afternoon weddings with griots, all night in dance halls with cover bands, and in stadiums with reggae stars.

Seydou was born in Quinzambougou, Bamako, Mali, in January, 1980.  His father Boubacar Koita and his mother Mariam Traore were both griots, ethnic Dafing from villages on either side of the Mali-Burkina border: his father's village is close to Mopti and his mother's is across the border, near Nouna, in Burkina Faso.  In 1982, Boubacar took the family to Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire, where he and Mariam made a living playing at marriages and baptisms for Malian and Burkinabe migrants. The family returned to Bamako in 1987.

A few years later, Seydou started to apprentice with his father, learning the rudiments of the Bajourou style.  In 1990, he started to play weddings with his parents, providing the 'accompagnement', or balafon-inspired rhythm guitar, for his father to solo over.  Seydou spent more than a decade backing his father, taking his time to learn the repertoire.  It wasn't until he moved to Ouagadougou, in 2005, that he started to think about building a career in music.

Soon after arriving in Ouagadougou he locked down the rhythm guitar chair in Mountaga Tall's Orchestre Afony.  (In the Sahel, as in central Africa, there is a strict division of musical labor between the rhythm guitar player and the soloist.)  Over the next five years Seydou worked on his chops, determined to make the shift from accompagnateur to soloiste.  In 2009, he joined Awa Sissao's group and soon became her bandleader.  A year later he was recruited by Amity Meria, Burkina's other great diva, to be her soloist and bandleader.  Over the last ten years Seydou has collaborated with all of Burkina's headline artists, from the late Georges Ouedraogo and Amadou Balake (he played on his last album), to current stars Awa Melone and Sana Bob.  In July 2016, Seydou took his Yeliza Band into the studio and recorded an album of his own compisitions and arrangements.  These recordings have yet to be released--hopefully soon!  

This past October Seydou was invited, for the second year in a row, to perform at the Womaaf festival in Tangiers, Morocco.  With a few days between gigs, Seydou came down to the capital Rabat to spend a few days with us.  Enjoying the break from his always intense performing schedule, Seydou spent his days in Rabat working through a backlog of musical ideas.  And after an afternoon of leisurely practicing, Seydou came into the 'Wallahi le Zein!' studio to record some of these ideas.  Over the course of two hours, Seydou tracked, with no overdubs, a set of 10 demos to send to the pickup musicians who were going to play his next gig with him in Tangiers.

Rabat Rehearsal Demos

These tracks are rough musical sketches, one take inspirations.  I have listened to these tracks dozens of times over the last two months, enjoying them more with each listen.  I encouraged Seydou to let me share these recordings because I think they are an interesting and rare document of a very talented West African guitar player.  If like me, you are often frustrated when listening to Malian or Guinean recordings because beautiful guitar lines get buried in the mix, swamped by balafons and vocal choruses, here is a chance to bask in the simple beauty of well executed, elegant, guitar parts.

I selected my five favorite demos to share with you. Two of the tracks are inspired by the Wassoulou rhythms of southern Mali (Munyu and Djeliya), the track Warba is Seydou's take on the Mossi rhythm of the same name, and Te Djon To and Walitigui are classic 'Mandingue', the art of the Malian griot.  With the exception of Te Djon To, all of these tracks are mulitrack recordings.  Seydou played each part live with the click track.

Let me know what you think!  If you want to get in touch with Seydou give me a shout.

Thanks to Diophante Noel for the pictures. 


  1. Very nice listening, that has become a bit fustrane, after listening several times those sounds are very familiar to me, butI could not identify the origin of the songs.
    At least I have learned to identify a Mossi rhythm, although I wonder if the title will be Waraba instead of Warba,
    Munyu (in French it would be Mouniou) and Djeliya, rather than Wassoulou, I would say in Bamana style, Te Djon To and Walitigui (maybe Waritigui) classic 'Mandingue' the first with air Bambara and the second Malinké.
    Thanks for sharing, if someone recognizes the melodies, please, Share!


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