The Belle Epoque of Bambara Music: Super Biton

July 5, 2010

Back from a whirlwind of a trip to Mali, this next month or two will be devoted to the diversity of Malian music in all its shapes and forms, including field recordings and the like.
While I troll through all the recordings I did, I’ll start by posting samples of some of the cds I purchased, almost all of which seems to be released by Mali K7 (a production company run by a French dude named Yves Wernert, which according to this article is suffering heavily from the swarthy music pirates out there).
First up, Super Biton from the album Belle Epoque. Not much to be found online, so I’ll lift a bit of info off the back of the cd. Named after Biton Coulibaly, founder of the Bambara Empire of Ségou, Super Biton is probably the most representative of Bambara music in Mali. The lines are pentatonic, the rhythms hypnotic, and the energy is markedly different from the Malinké music of the griots Toumani Diabaté, Salif Keita, and many more (more on this later). Super Biton became a nationally funded orchestra in 1976 and toured internationally into the early 80s.
In the two tunes below I love how the relaxed psychedelic keyboard and horn lines snake lazily around the intense, tight, driving guitar and percussion.
Incidentally, Ségou, the city from whence they hail, is a very cool, almost sleepy place and in my eyes probably the prettiest Malian city with its deep red (thanks to the addition of shea butter) banco (earth and straw) architecture. Much more relaxed than Bamako, I could get used to sipping the “thé malien” (brought to you in three – first is bitter like death, second is soft and sweet like life, the third is sweet and extra sugary like love) or a Castel beer on the banks of the Niger and listen to all the great music to be had there (including probably most famously the ngoni god Bassekou Kouyaté). Guess I’ll have to attend the festival sur le Niger one of these Februaries.


Taasidoni – Super Biton


Sisini – Super Biton

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2 Responses to “The Belle Epoque of Bambara Music: Super Biton”

  1. Liz Schelper Says:

    Wow! Great tracks! Keep them coming! Thanks for your post. I am so happy to have discovered your site!

  2. Newg Says:

    Sisini is such an amazing song. Love the trumpets at beginning and end, and the great guitar in the middle there. Transported me far from DC…


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