Faso Denou


Released 08 May 1993

  1. Mama Sara
  2. Kara Mogo Mousso
  3. Dounounia
  4. Nanore
  5. Faso Denou
  6. Hereyo Mibi
  7. Ourodara Sidiki
  8. Lanaya
  9. Bi Mousso

Liner notes

It’s rare that I have a chance to work with such a pure form as Farafina. Communication… the important ingredient…and so we keep everyone close together. Speak not too many words. Let the drum engine of Farafina- power on reserve like an old Dodge Charger- take us for a long ride, moist air, something burning in the next village. My job is the one of a documenter- surveyor of performance. Richard the engineer just holds on for dear life ‘cause there’s no turning back.

Eight hours later the dust settles and we are left with one side of a record..



The idea of working with an African percussion ensemble has still not yet set in, even after the experience of having done so. I had very little to go on, in terms of past encounters with musicians of this genre and so, I felt that the best way to tackle the situation as producer, would be to allow the band a platform on which to “musically produce” itself. By this I mean that if all facilities were working properly (Real World Studios were functioning on all 12 cylinders) and the general recording environment was one that promoted friendly collaboration, then the results in production could be very positive. The music provided me with a clear sonic view of the people involved in its creation as they used their instruments to present a musical face that reflected them both as individuals and as the ensemble, Farafina. When this happens within the musical group, it is a reflection of all positive energy being put to work to accomplish a common goal

I feel that my assumption was on target as I am quite comfortable with the results of the series of recordings that comprise the new Farafina album. I hope that you, the listener, are in accordance with this personal view.


On stage at WOMAD Morecambe 1992. Photo credit: Francis Drake.

A Flute entwines its melancholy call with the voice of the wind in the reeds as a young Peul shepherd dreams of his homeland, the dry and suncracked Sahel. He has left his sweetheart there, back in the North, and is now heading west, walking across the savannah. His destination is the royal city of the Dioulas, Bobo-Dioulasso where they told him that, in old quarter of Bolomakoté, he would find the elder, Mahama Konaté, distinguished master of the balafon and leader of a famous ensemble known as far away as lands where snow falls…

This could be the opening scene of a film that tells the story of Farafina. The setting is sparse and barren; the characters are honest and down-to-earth with a communal spirit for their music and dance of such intensity that it drives the group forward, in a whirlwind of joyous trance, to discover and communicate with other peoples of the world.

Farafina is essentially a spirtual concept, an “idea” of the music of Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta, which is twice as big as England, but with a population of scarcely 7 million. In Bobo-Dioulasso, the art of the griots still thrives today as during the time of the ancient Manding empire. A strong spirit of competition, stimulated by the “National Week of Culture”, has made the city a tremendous crucible of musical and dancing talent.

Farafina is also a “school”, a place where experience musicians (“the elders”) pass on their knowledge to passionately keen young players. “The young ones begin by carrying the instruments for the master musicians when they go to lead the festivities at marriages,” explains Michel Schaer, manager and agent of the group. “To begin with, they sing and beat out the rhythm on stones or make-shift instruments. And if they seem to have talent they are given a bara or a djembé on which to practice.” In Bob, there are at least three groups that originate from the “Farafina school” which numbers 25 musicians. The younger groups liven up marriages and initiations while the international group, made up of the best players, comes together mainly before the tours. In this way the members of the group have been able to change over the years.

A perfect example is Yaya Ouattara, a devoted student of the “school” of Bolomakoté since the age of about 10. Fascinated by the group’s leading soloist PacoYé, hios virtuosity on the djembé and his incredible mastery of dance, Yaya’s greatest dream was to perform with his idol. His dream became reality, after years of determined study, when he accompanied Paco Yé on the stages of the world at the age of only 17. Two years later, his young “master” handed over to him and Yaya now stokes the fire of exhilaration in people’s hearts with his pyrotechnic djembé playing.

Fanafina was formed in 1978 by Mahama Konaté, virtuoso balafon player and former member of the National Ballet of Upper Volta. Twelve years later, while he has given up the exhausting world tours, he remains the spiritual father of the group which performs many of his compositions. In 1982, when Farafina went on stage for the first time in Europe, its repertoire was very traditional. Progressively, through contact with a western public facilitated by their Swiss management, Farafina’s style has developed towards new forms of expression. Collaborations with Jon Hassell for the album Flash of the Spirit, with the Rolling Stones on Steel Wheels and contributions on Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Beauty were all to highlight this new direction, without compromising the integrity of Farafina’s collective inspiration. This album marks the tenth anniversary of their European career and traces this development.

Farafina’s music has a polyrhythmic structure that is both complex and yet immediately clear, but above all this music is an irrestible driving force to dance. The rhythmic framework is built around the tama (a little drum held high under the arm) of Tiawara Keïta, the eldest member of the group who relies on his inner vision to observe life and fills his nights with music to express what he has seen. Constructed around this pillar, this metronome, is the rhythm: the two balafons (wooden xylophones whose slats are amplified by goudrds) of Bakari Traoré and Baba Diarra; the bara (a bulbous calabash with goat skin) of Bêh Palm and Soulemane Sanou’s doumdou’da (a long cylindrical bass drum). From this foundation Yaya Ouattara’s djembé (an hourglass-shaped solo drum with goat skin) is left free to soar Soungalo Coulibaly’s flute and Seydou Zon’s sokou (a small African violin) bring harmony into the equation, a breath of fresh air to encourage the voices.


Further Listening

  • Djabote

    Doudou N’Diaye Rose

    Released 14 February 1994

    Legendary master drummer Doudou N’Diaye Rose leads fifty percussionists and eighty singers in a mesmerising performance of power and beauty. Doudou is the recognized modern master of Senegal's traditional drum, the sabar.
  • Gongoma Times


    Released 25 January 1993

    Exhilarating traditional dance music from Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa— displaying some of the deepest roots of blues, jazz and pop. Fatala is unique in modern African music as a band, formed in Paris, recreating the roots of the music of Guinea without synths or programmes.

Further reading

Sheila Chandra companion listening release: Out in the Real World

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Track of the Day: ‘Chavale’ by Kerieva, from Dub No Frontiers

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Track of the day: ‘Sajanava’ by Jasdeep Singh Degun

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