...the sound of Les Amazones will put a smile on the face...
Garth Cartwright 2008
The West African nation of Guinea is often celebrated for kicking off the West African music renaissance. This happened when Guinea's first post-colonial President, Sekou Toure, insisted on a cultural policy of 'authenticite', so forcing bands to play the music of their region and sing in their native tongues (as opposed to playing popular French and American music forms). While this policy greatly benefited music making in Guinea, and would influence musicians across West Africa as a whole, the country under President Toure descended into the worst excesses of dictatorship.
Les Amazones De Guinee are an all-female band of soldiers serving in the local militia. Wamato is their second album, the first having been recorded in Paris in 1982. If that appears a long time between projects, consider that the band were formed as L'Orchestre Feminin De La Gendarmerie De Guinee in 1961. Renamed Les Amazones De Guinee for foreign consumption, their music developed over the 1960s, and in 1977 they won international acclaim after performing at a Nigerian festival featuring Fela Kuti. This event lead to further foreign dates and the Paris recordings.
The continual collapse of Guinea's economy means there are no longer the funds to send Les Amazones outside the border. Interest from legendary Malian producer Ibrahima Sylla saw the current incarnation of the orchestra; eleven permanent musicians and seven guests, travel by bus from Guinea to neighbouring Mali where they recorded this magical album.
For anyone with a love of not just West African music but funky dance music coloured with spiraling guitar, bright horn patterns and strong vocals then Wamato is a must. 'Chef D’orchestre' Commandant Salematou Diallo, her Captains and Lieutenants make up a remarkably fluid band, the instrumental interplay and warm vocals suggesting that even if not touring abroad they play out in Guinea regularly.
Most news from Guinea is depressing; the sound of Les Amazones will put a smile on the face of all listening.