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Amadou Balake

Burkina Faso, AF

Est. 1974

In recent years he was one of the key vocalists in the veteran pan-African salsa juggernaut Africando, but starting in the 60s he was a true journeyman, settling in for spells in Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea, among other locales, finding his way within regional styles. Balaké didn't make a ton of recordings during his career, but the music he released—much of it on the Abidjan-based Sacodis imprint—was delightfully varied, moving easily between Afrobeat and salsa with many stops in between, though he frequently returned to the stuttering warba grooves of Burkina Faso.

In 1979 he traveled with Gambian singer Laba Sosseh to New York, where he cut a series of tracks with local salsa musicians, a cultural marriage that paved the way for the emergence of Africando. (In this, of course, Balaké was among the many African musicians who'd already adapted Afro-Cuban traditions for their own purposes, reclaiming the music's African roots.) He turned in some terrific performances on last year's Viva Africando (Sterns), and you can check out his singing on the album's opening track, "Deni Sabali,".

Earlier last year the Dutch imprint Kindred Spirits reissued one of Balaké's best albums for Sacodis, Bar Konon Mousso Bar, on vinyl. There are pieces that reference the clave groove of Cuba, with chattering guitars playing the usual montuno piano patters, but there are also some hard-hitting Afrobeat jams like the album opener, "Super Bar Nonon Mousso,"

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