Keletigui Et Ses Tambourinis ‘The Syliphone Years’ 2CD (Stern’s Africa) 5/5

There is a select number of groups in post-independent Guinea who made their unique imprint on modern music there and they include Bembeya Jazz National; Balla et ses Balladins. Keletegui deservedly belongs to this hallowed company. Initially, keyboardist, flautist and bandleader Keletegui formed Orchestre de la Paillote which eventually morphed into Keletegui et ses Tambourinis by the mid-1960s. By the late 1960s, the ‘authenticite’ campaign had commenced by which local songs, Cuban, jazz and even European pop styles combined to create a new distinctly modern Guinean sound. The first CD is devoted to the relatively short three year period when the band had begun recording from 1968 until 1970. An early hit was scored with the excellent ‘Mariama’ and at this stage, the band was composing songs devoted to all manner of interesting subjects. This is typified by ‘Fruitaguinee’ in which they dedicated the piece to new agricultural initiatives such as the setting up of a local fruit juice company (one wonders who would have paid similar homage in western music!) and in diasporan relations with other French-speaking nations of African descent as on ‘Cigarettes allumettes’ being sung in Haitian creole. The second focuses in the first part on some of the obscurer A and B sides that Keletegui et ses Tambourinis brought out especially in 1970. Several of these had a Cuban flavour with exotic titles such as ‘Il Tomatero’ (another take on the ‘Peanut Vendor’ classic) and ‘Guajiro con Tumbao’. The distinctive brassy accompaniment and driving rhythm guitar was in full swing by now. Keletegui certainly had a great sense of humour and this is illustrated on the English-language ‘Kiss my nose’ which sounds like a Guinean attempt at Latin soul! A major bonus on this set is the inclusion of the self-titled 1972 LP. From this, the uptempo and multi-layered ‘Bebe’ impresses while ‘Mande’ could almost be out of the Orchestre Baobab repertoire with its melodic feel. This is a very worthy addition to the ongoing series of Syllart classics and the present compilation can be unreservedly recommended as a definitive guide to one of modern Guinean music’s heroes. Excellent liner notes from Graeme Counsel and as ever the same attention to detail from Sterns in the inner sleeve with wonderful original 45 and LP covers, and historical photos of the country’s leader with world dignitaries. Keletegui passed away in November 2008, and this compilation serves as a fitting tribute to his immense contribution to West African music.

Tim Stenhouse