|In turn, this second volume of the Africavision series relates the story of African film music. It spans fifty years of the youngest cinema in the world, a cinema of powerful stories and warm-hearted images: radiant faces despite the poverty, hope and solidarity despite the pain, humour, love and mockery. Music by Diogal Sakho (Senegal) Mulatu Astatqé (Ethiopia), Tom Yom’s (Cameroon), Ali Wague (Guinea), Henri Guédon (Martinique), Kouyaté Sory Kandia (Guinea), Georges Anderson (Cameroon), Francis Bebey (Cameroon), Xalam (Senegal), Jacques Loubélo (Congo), Philip Nikwé (Benin), Zao (Congo), Nicolas Baby (France), Lamine Konté (Senegal), Bill de Sam (Guinea), Ingamadji Mujos (Chad)|
More music from the African silver screen
Now here’s an intriguing, if frustrating, oddity: a second volume of the French anthology marking 50 years of African cinema. It starts with the voice of Senegal’s Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, credited with making the first African film (that is, the first film made entirely by Africans) back in 1955. It’s interesting to hear his voiceover and some of the traditional music that he used in Afrique sur Seine, but more than anything one is left really wanting to see the film itself. The same is true for the rest of this curious collection. There is a wildly varying array of songs that happen to have been used in different African films, along with bursts of specially written film music, and liner notes providing biographies of the often little-known artists involved, together with plot-lines of the movies. So I can now tell you that the ‘mythical Senegal band’ Xalam had their song ‘Djisalbero’ used in the 1996 film Moussou, the story of a Senegalese prostitute and murderess in Paris.
The music here contains a bit of everything. There’s a bluesy jazz piece using brass and piano, from Ethiopia’s Mulatu Astatqe, an experimental, wailing atmospheric piece from fusion-funk exponent Nicolas Baby, and a bold clash of choral styles, drumming and jazz from Henri Guédon, who is not from Africa but Martinique. Then there are some jaunty pop songs and the deep soulful vocals of Cameroon’s Georges Anderson. There are some interesting tracks here, but taken simply as a musical collection, it sounds decidedly random.
Robin Denselow / Songlines