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(GUINEA CONAKRY, 2009) @
Mamadou Barry, the renowned Guinean saxophonist and former director of the Kaloum Star orchestra, is still going strong in his sixties. "Master" Barry recently went into a Conakry studio with the best local musicians to record his debut solo album, Niyo. This compelling mix of Afro-beat grooves and hypnotic Mandingo rhythms confirms that Guinea is still producing exceedingly good and original sounds.
Mamadou Barry belongs to a generation of musicians who grew up in a country where culture was wielded as a political instrument in post-independence days. Music played a significant role in forging national pride and the Guinean government financed the setting up of a national label, Syliphone, to record the growing band of national and federal orchestras. Interestingly enough, musicians were also financed by the state in those days, drawing regular salaries like other civil servants.
"Maître" Barry - so called because of his short career as a school teacher - began conducting Kaloum Star (a federal orchestra from Conakry) in 1969. The orchestra recorded a first LP in 1973 which was followed by a number of singles. Kaloum Star, who eventually released their official debut CD album in 1996, put themselves on the music map by modernising Mandingo folk sounds and opening traditional music up to jazz and Afro-beat.
Niyo taps into much the same vein, the sleeve notes proclaiming that Mamadou Barry's debut album is "to be filed under: Africa / cool grooves." Barry, considered by many as a worthy heir to Momo Wandel (a saxophonist whose vibrant swing style made a legendary impact on the Guinean music scene) also makes a point of bringing jazz home to Africa on his solo debut.
On the vibrant Africa Five, "Master" Barry puts his own definitive spin on Take Five (a classic jazz piece originally recorded by the American pianist Dave Brubeck and his quartet half a century ago now.) Then his sax slips into a different mode on Sumbouya, accompanying the raw, emotional vocals of the young Guinean songstress Sia Tolno. Two of Guinea's finest female voices - Sény Malomou and Missia Saran - step behind the microphone on Sodia and Bikè Magnin while the kora-player Kélontan Cissoko steps centre stage on the final track, Néné, to sing "Maître" Barry's praises griot-style. With its clever alternation of songs and instrumental tracks, Niyo strikes a thoroughly seductive balance.
Mamadou Barry Niyo (World Village/Harmonia Mundi) 2009
Mamadou Barry, Niyo on World Village
New release on World Village: Mamadou Barry, a legendry name in African Music releases Niyo, his first album in his own name which features the finest Guinean musicians and singers, including Missia Saran and Sia Tolna.
From the musical foment of Sekou Toure's Guinea emerged a great swathe of brilliant bands and musicians. Mamadou Barry was one such musician. The worthy heir of Momo Wandel Soumah, West Africa's greatest saxophonist, Mamadou Barry - who has been called 'Maître' because of his short career as a schoolmaster - has become a major figure in his country's artistic scene.
In 1968, his talent as a composer and arranger led him to become founding member and leader of Kaloum Star, the new orchestra sponsored by the Guinean state in the wake of the likes of Bembeya Jazz National, Keletigui & his Tambourinis, Balla & his Balladins and the Horoya Band. He has toured the world with Kaloum Star and occasionally Bembeya Jazz and Keletigul. He is also the musical director and arranger of Les Amazones de Guinée (since 1983). More recently he is the leader of Gombo Jazz, which performs every week in the clubs of Conakry. Much respected and valued for his openness and generosity, he is often sought out to accompany young artists, both on stage and in studio.
Mamadou Barry is a multi-instrumentalist - he not only plays tenor, alto and soprano sax but also flute and percussion - as well as a fine connoisseur of all the sub-region's rhythms and music styles. Open to all musical trends, he insisted on self-producing this first album under his name, in a studio of Conakry It was recorded with the cream of Conakry's musicians, all generations included, both modern and traditional