Radio Africa

Looking for the music of Baba Soumano
Graeme Counsel  © Copyright

I love the music of Baba Soumano, a Malian musician of the 1950s who recorded at least 53 songs on 78 rpm discs, mostly on the Opika label. His large recording output, which exceeds that of Koni Coumaré, Fanta Damba and other much more acclaimed artists of the era, makes Baba Soumano the most prolific Malian recording artist of the era. His name and musical legacy, however, are largely unknown today.

I have created
a discography of Baba Soumano which forms part of a larger discography of Malian music. With his groups the “Ensemble Soudanais Kita” (sometimes referred to as the “Orchestre Soudanais Kita”), or accompanied by “Moussa Diabaté”, Soumano's recordings represent some of the earliest examples of modern Mandé popular music. The featured instruments in his ensembles are acoustic guitars, melodica, claves and a trap drum kit. Such small ensembles were mobile and able to tour widely. In Mali they presented a style of music that was central to the post-WW2 “Kaïra” movement, where “youth associations”, griots and nascent political parties mixed together at organised social events to stiumlate cultural awareness. The Kaïra movement was a precursor to Malian independence, and it heralded new styles of popular music.

Indeed, Baba Soumano performs the song “Kaïra” along with other well-known songs from the griot repertoire, such as “Douga”, “Nanfoulé”, “Tubaka” [aka “Toubaka”], Soumdiata Kaïta [aka “Soundiata”] and "Diarabi". There is also “Sarah” – a song I am yet to hear. Could this be the earlier version of Balla et ses Balladins' classic from 1969? Or a nod to Siramori Diabaté?

There is also “Whisky soda”, recorded in 1954 and re-released by Pathé in 1965, which is the same song recorded by Bembeya Jazz National (though they copied Fax Clarck's version). And “Mami wata”, too, which may be Baba's original version recorded by Bembeya Jazz a decade or so after.

I would love to hear more music by Baba Soumano. I have these recordings, below, which I will put on YouTube. If you have others, please share!
My contact information is here.

Mano whisky soda
Ça va barder!
Mama tikanama
Allah nolé
Reine Bouaké
Lombé lombé

Here are two Baba Soumano songs to enjoy:
Baba Soumano Baba Soumano
"Alanolé" "Douga"