Radio Africa
African classics: Orchestre Régional de Kayes

Reviews of classic recordings from Africa


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