The story of the Super Biton of Ségou
With the Super Biton de Ségou, we literally go back in time we meet in the sixties and seventies : Louis Armstrong in 1960 and Duke Ellington in 1967 during their African tours which marked and gave vocations to countless musicians, the beginnings of amplified music, Radio-Brazzaville and Congolese music influenced by Cuban percussions or the national artistic and cultural biennials which rewarded the best orchestras in Mali. All these crucial elements have enabled Mali to acquire musical orchestras existing under the aegis of the State of Mali which have shone throughout Africa: the Rail Band of Bamako, the Ambassadeurs du Motel, the Goffé Star of Kayes; the Kéné Star of Sikasso, the Kanaga of Mopti, the Ensemble Instrumental of Mali, the Mystère Jazz of Tombouctou and of course the Super Biton of Ségou.
Born in the early sixties through various orchestral mergers such as L’Alliance Jazz de Ségou, the Regional Orchestra of Ségou or the Echo of the Bambara Kingdom of Ségou (ERBAS), Le Super Biton de Ségou has crossed the decades until today under this name since 1973, year during which a young student, future Prime Minister of the Transition in 1992, Zoumana Sacko, renamed the formation in homage to the mythical king of the Bambara Kingdom of Ségou, Mamari Biton Coulibaly, who reigned from 1712 to 1755. At the heart of this formation, we find the late Amadou Bah, nicknamed “Armstrong” following his remarkable meeting with the American trumpeter during his second African
tour in 1960. He is the conductor of the Segovian formation respected by all and who knew how to unite around him from the sixties a fine team of musicians, 19 in total, all more talented than the others with each his specialty. The knowhow of Super Biton has earned it over the years to establish itself as one of the best orchestras in Mali, winning the National Biennials in 1970, 1972, 1974 and especially 1976. During this last Biennale, on March 18 to be precise, the Super Biton was even crowned the National Orchestra, declared out of competition and nationalized by a decree from the official journal.
This national recognition anticipates recognition throughout Africa and then internationally.
First, the Festac Festival in Lagos in 1977, its unique formula, Bambara jazz, which mixes amplified instruments and brass, Cuban percussion and emphasis on singing, catches the eye of the European public. The group then flew to France as part of the Angoulême Jazz & Métis Music Festival in 1983. And two years later, the Palais des Glaces in Paris hosted the Super Biton, a prelude to a tour in France, in the Netherlands and then in Germany in 1986. From 1988, it was the crossing of the desert that ended in the early 2000s with the reformation of the Super Biton, now led by Mama Sissoko.
This first volume, entitled Afro.Jazz.Folk Collection, brings together a total of 8 emblematic Super Biton titles recorded over the years between 1970 and 1980 and published on his vinyl or cassette albums. Remastered by Raphaël Jonin, they represent the trademark of Super Biton, namely a well-balanced mix of electric modernity and enhancement of Bambara cultural heritage while being open to other influences, such as Cuban music for example. Like the title that opens the compilation, Ndossoke, with the bewitching and above all dancing Bambara rhythm, the music of Ségou’s Super Biton is a marvelous receptacle for singing directly inspired by the Mandingo oral tradition praising the exploits of the hunters of the time of the Ségou Empire. We find this tradition in the title Kamalen Wari, 17 minutes
which recounts, on a calmer pace, the epic Bozo, one of the first ethnic groups in the city of Ségou.
The quality of the texts paying homage to the greatness of the Kingdom of Ségou and to the Bambara culture is surely for something there because the lyricist of Super Biton de Ségou, Karamako Niang, who died in 2010 is one of the most famous lyricists and songwriters of Mali. Difficult to find today and selected by the 3 remaining members of the group, Modibo Diarra, Mama Sissoko and Aboubacar Kissa (very recently disappeared), these 8 tracks spread over 2 lps are a vibrant testimony to the musical effervescence that reigned in Ségou and in Mali in these years of overflowing cultural creativity and a tribute to all its talented musicians who crossed the road to Super Biton.
A2. Super Biton
B1. Kamalen Wari
D2. Sournousso Haba
D3 . Garan
GENRE: African Music
RELEASE DATE: 09/02/2024