Radio Africa
African classics: Orchestre Régional de Kayes

Reviews of classic recordings from Africa



For those of you who like West African music I know that many of you would be upset to learn that this fine recording is currently being illegally sold by Mississippi Records, of Portland Oregon. Mississippi Records is run by Eric Isaacson and Warren Hill. They do not own the copyright to the songs and seek to profit from the release without making any efforts to contact the musicians of the orchestra. Simply put, exploitation of African musicians is their business practice. Mississippi Records have widely advertised their release of 1,000 vinyl copies, which are currently being sold at various sites around the world including ebay. At these sites you may find that my copyright is also being infringed by the illegal reproduction of my review, below, which Mississippi Records copied without my permission and forwarded to various companies. I have asked them to stop infringing my copyright my work, but have received no reply.

I wish it to be known that I am not associated with Mississippi Records in any way whatsoever. I deplore their exploitative business practice and, given the difficulties that many African musicians face, I find it repellent that Mississippi Records can profit from the sale of the Kayes orchestra LP without paying one cent in royalties to the original musicians.

Please avoid all Mississippi Records releases and inform your colleagues of what is occurring. 


Kayes is situated on the Bamako-Dakar railway line in north-western Mali, just near the Senegalese border. The town is a regional capital of one of Mali's eight administrative regions. Shortly after independence Mali adopted a cultural policy which stipulated that a local orchestra must represent each region, hence the formation of the Kayes orchestra. Each year the orchestras would compete at the national arts festivals. Commencing in 1962, these "semaines" were held annually until the coup of 1968, whereafter they were held bi-annually and were known as the Biennales. At the arts festivals the Regional Orchestra of Kayes would compete against the other orchestras from Ségou, Tombouctou, Sikasso, Mopti, Gao, Koulikoro and Bamako for the championship prize. The above LP represents the orchestra's only recording - on the excellent Bärenreiter-Musicaphon series. It is a travesty that with the exception of a few tracks on the double-CD "Musiques du Mali vols 1 & 2" these seminal LPs have never been released on CD. They represent some of the finest modern music to have been recorded in West Africa. The Kayes orchestra were particularly outstanding, with arresting, searing guitar solos performed in classic Mandé songs such as "Duga" and "Malisajo". Some of the regional orchestras, such as those from Tombouctou, Gao and Koulikouro, missed out on being released through the Bärenreiter-Musicaphon series, but were recorded by Radio Mali, so there is certainly incentive for a wonderful series of re-issues... 


Graeme Counsel © Copyright