Radio Africa

Sillyphone SPH 001: the first Syliphone release?
Graeme Counsel  © Copyright

Greetings Syliphone fans!

Here is the likely first ever Syliphone recording, an EP of four tracks released by Guinea's Ministère de l'Information et du Tourisme. Its year of release is uncertain but I would suggest 1966.

The recording label's name of "Sillyphone" is an early attempt to align the "Sily" (a local Suso term for "elephant", which was the emblem of the President Sékou Touré's Parti Démocratique de Guinée) with the new recording label. The choice of spelling is unfortunate, and later it was changed to "Sily" as per Syliphone, Syli-Photo and Syli-Cinema.

I purchased the EP from a former Republic of Jugoslavia state, which is unsurprising given Guinea's former close ties with the Eastern bloc. That the EP had made its way many thousands of kilometres from Guinea to eastern Europe is also unsurprising given that Syliphone recordings were sold at Conakry's international airport, and in fact a small kiosk was still in existence at the domestic terminal when I last visited.

The EP contains four tracks. "Alpha yaya", "Tabara" and "Kémé bourema" are solo kora performances. The final track "Khanounteya mou gnomma" is performed by a choir. Unfortunately, the artists are not named.

Can you identify the kora player on the tracks "Alpha yaya", "Tabara" and "Kémé bourema"? I am sure it is the same djely ("griot") and my guess is that it is M'Bady Kouyaté.

A much harder song to identify is "Khanounteya mou gnomma". Under President Sékou Touré, the Guinean government's cultural policy of authenticité sponsored artistic ensembles in all of Guinea's 34 prefectures. Each prefecture had its own orchestra, traditional music ensemble, theatrical troupe and choir. Each year they performed at the annual Quinzaine Artistique et Culturelle Nationale festival held in Conakry, where they were judged by a panel and given a score. Those who scored highest were acclaimed as the winners of their group for that year. If an ensemble or orchestra, for example, won their category at multiple annual festivals they could be elevated from the level of "regional" group to "national". Bembeya Jazz and the Horoya Band both won their orchestra category at multiple festivals and hence were elevated to Bembeya Jazz National and Horoya Band National. Many of Guinea's orchestras, choirs and traditional music ensembles were recorded by the government and are featured in the Endangered Archives Programme project which preserved and digitised the sound archive held at Radio Télévision Guinée. Can you identify the group singing "Khanounteya mou gnomma"? It is likely to be a local "regional" choir...

Your replies are most welcome and can be sent to the email address in the "About" link at the top of this page.

In any case, enjoy the "first" Syliphone recording by clicking on the image below.

Sillyphone: SPH 001
"Alpha yaya", "Tabara", "Kémé bourema", "Khanounteya mou gnomma".