Guinean music

Sayon Bamba’s nomad planet
Third album Dougna

24/03/2011 -

From Conakry to Brussels, the Guinean singer Sayon Bamba Camara is a young woman of the world. Her third album, Dougna presents a daring marriage of the Mandinka tradition and electronic music.

RFI musique: You grew up in Conakry, then emigrated to Marseille, where you lived for many years before moving to Brussels. Did that have any influence on Dougna?
Sayon Bamba : Yes I think it did. What I liked about Marseille was its village feel. I used to go to the market in the Cours Julien, which I really miss. I had my routine… but had nothing left to prove. I was in a musical family atmosphere at home, but to be creative, you need to see the outside world. I’m a nomad and I like discovering new things. In Brussels, I’m not singing out for Africa anymore, I’m singing for the world!

Was it this new influence that pushed you into electro?
What happened was that after the acoustics recording in the studio I didn’t feel satisfied. Something was missing. I had a discussion with Angélique Kidjo and it was a great help. She simply said to me: “Find your own thing, but a career doesn’t come from always playing the same music.” That opened up my way of seeing things and I thought for ages about how I could take the record further. I chose sampling and electro.

Did you feel stuck in tradition?
I wanted this album to surprise and refresh me so that I could get up and play it well on stage. As a singer from the new Guinean generation, I try to add a bit of new spice my music. I aim to move away from Mandinka music without disorienting my fans. In fact, in L’amour c’est show and Baba, the tunes take you back to the Sylliphone era (Editor’s note: national label under Sékou Touré). As a young Guinean, I feel nostalgic about seventies bands, too, which are disappearing to make way for pop music and drum machines.

The number L’excisée is a successful blend of tradition and electro, but it’s the message it conveys that has really got the track noticed.
Yes, people are really listening to it. I recently made an appearance on Parade, Guinean TV’s main music programme. They played the video clip and it touched people. The next day, I was at a petrol station and a man said to me, “It’s important to carry on, well done!” I’m currently working on setting up an “artists’ caravan against female circumcision”, due for mid-October 2011 and involving five or six concerts in Conakry and then a tour of the regions. There will be three free performances with a concert and sketches on circumcision played by Guinean actresses. There will also be a creation by the Compagnie Sayon Bamba, which I set up in Marseille, with seven women on stage (an Indian, a Congolese, a Breton, etc.) telling a story with music, theatre and dance. The parade will be my big fight for 2011!

How do Guineans react to this initiative?
A number of artists, like Bambino, have already made a stand and sung out against female circumcision. So our elders opened up the way. The authorities react well: I’m supported by the Ministry for Guinean Culture, the Ministry of Health, and the French Cultural Centre in Guinea. I make fairly “useful” music, and the officials know that messages come across well in music. Mothers are not in schools, they’re mainly in the market place, out in their neighbourhoods, singing and dancing. Even if it’s too late for the older ones, we need to save the little girls and make their mothers aware.

In Bananiya, you also tackle the question of emigration, but with a humorous approach this time.
Yes, young people only think about leaving, but they have no projects. They still believe that they’ll leave Guinea and everything will just fall into place. But Europe is no Eldorado. Having said that, travelling is really important. I’m a nomad myself and I would like to pass on a message to these young people: it’s important to travel, but not necessarily from south to north. There are other ways. Perhaps in ten years time I’ll be in India or Peru (she laughs), why not?


Sayon Bamba Dougna (Cobalt/l’Autre Distribution) 2011
Playing live on 31 March at the Pythagoras in Brussels and 1 April at the Zèbre de Belleville in Paris


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