Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Look At This New 3-CD Set On The African Pop Heyday Of Burkina Faso

I'm not going to approach Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta, out now via The Numero Group, with any pretense of being an expert on this sort of African pop. Nor am I going to approach it as a socialist via some angle that explains what this music represents about the state of an African state in the Seventies. No, no, I'm going to review this set simply as a music fan and on those terms I can say that this compilation was a blast from start to finish.

This collection chronicles a golden age in the music of what is now Burkina Faso. Known as Upper Volta after 1960, the nation produced a few decades' worth of the best Afro-pop, for lack of a better term, and the majority of the best moments are collected here on Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta.

Wisely, the folks at The Numero Group have structured Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta in such a way that each disc covers one extraordinary set of performers. Disc 1 covers the fab Volta Jazz, an ensemble whose output coves spry Afro-pop like the smooth "Mama Soukous", the percussive workout of "Nago Fala", and on to the utterly sublime and infectious "Air Volta" with its big hooks. Even casual fans of African popular music, or those with my sort of limited knowledge of this music, will find much to love here on the first disc of this excellent collection.

Disc 2 is given over to legendary vocalist Coulibaly Tidiane and his Dafra Star orchestra. The material here is more designed to highlight his vocals, naturally, and things are, in spots at least, a bit less propulsive than those on Disc 1, though stuff like "Sie Koumgolo" and "Yafamma" work up tremendous, percussive riffs that carry the material forward.

On the final disc of Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta there's a bit more variety with tracks presented from groups like Les Imbattles Leopards and Echo Del Africa. The progressions here highlight how the entire scene in Upper Volta (later Burkina Faso) expanded as music-making became more common. This is largely music made for dancing and live performance so the social aspect of this material shines through; this is "party music", of a sort, redolent of its era and locale. And there's a lot of value here in simply absorbing all this and trying to place it in the context of global pop trends in the era outside Africa.

Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta is out now via The Numero Group. This is highly lively and fun music and there should be nothing daunting about diving into this set at any starting point. Things are presented in such a way that even those new to these genres can appreciate what's here. The mammoth book of photographs from Sory Sante adds to the understanding of this era in Upper Volta's history as the country moved towards becoming Burkina Faso. The music here, the purest distillation of this country's burgeoning pop culture, reveals so much about the aspirations of the generation dreaming of so much more as a result of the country's growth in the Seventies.