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Buy the album at iTunes US Manghoya Foura - Dieneba Seck
Buy the album at iTunes UK Manghoya Foura - Dieneba Seck
In the late 1980s and early 90s it could sometimes seem the women singers of Mali reigned supreme. In particular it was those of the Wassoulou region, an area in the south of Mali renowned for its music and strongly linked to the birth of the blues, whose voices were heard. In 1991 Sterns released their ground-breaking compilation 'The Wassoulou Sound – Women Of Mali' and World Circuit picked up the 200,000+ seller in West Africa, 'Moussoulou' by Oumou Sangare.
Diénéba (or Djeneba, as it was then and still sometimes is, spelt) Seck had to wait a few more years before her first release in the West but the wait, at least for her listeners, was worth it: a key track on vol. 2 of 'The Wassoulou Sound' and one that had become a nationwide hit in Mali as a pro-democracy anthem. As reviewed in The Wire: “There is so much humour, spirituality, and sheer gutsy energy ... If you haven't already let the Wassoulou women into your life, then now's the time."
Diénéba's voice is less strident and more accessible than some of her compatriots. In fact in the early 1980s she combined her singing with a career as an actress and stage comedienne. That all changed with the above hit song “Kankeletigui”, and often with her husband Sékou Kouyaté providing the arrangements, the recordings started to flow, including 'The Truth' released by Sterns in 2005.
In common with several other Wassoulou singers, Diénéba's lyrics frequently deal with social or political issues. But however romantic that notion might seem to a liberal intelligentsia in the West, the reality for the singer can be a lot more prosaic and, at times, difficult if not actually dangerous. “Ilabando”, the 3rd track on this album recorded in Bamako, Mali last year, is dedicated to the wife of the President. Unfortunately that same President, Amadou Toumani Touré, was ousted a coup in March just this year and, at the time of writing, is sheltering in a neutral embassy but is still in Bamako.
The future is unclear … but the music is beautiful and with it's unique grooves, distinctive stringed 'ngoni' and the bursts of grunge-like guitar, it deserves our attention.