Zani Diabaté & Les Héritiers – Tientalaw

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Zani Diabaté & Les Héritiers – “Bogotigui Kanou”

Zani Diabaté was one of Mali’s finest griots. Growing up in the Diabaté family, he was well educated in kora, balafon, percussion and dance. Best known for his accomplished guitar playing, Zani’s fast pentatonic riffs were raw and commanded the attention of the listener. By the age of twelve he was playing with Troupe Folklorique, L’Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali, and L’Orchestre National. During the mid-seventies, Zani and his friends, Badian Kouate (bass), Daouda Sangare (singer), and Allou Fame (kamelan n’goni), performed at the Club Sportif (now Carrefour Des Jeunes). These performances led to the formation of the Super Djata Band, a mighty ensemble with a wild stage show. Critics were quick to praise the band’s dense groove.

“Super Djata’s groove is harder than Zairean soukous and fiercer than Senegalese mbalax.” – Robert Christgau

While they were renowned for their high energy live performances, the band only made one international release in 1988. The Super Djata Band found it tough to break through on the worldwide market, so they returned to Mali. Zani continued to play at clubs in Bamako for two decades. Throughout his life he remained an educator, training the next generation of young musicians. Tragically in December 2010, Zani Diabaté suffered a stroke while he was wrapping up a new album in Paris that had been recorded in Bamako, Mali. He passed away on January 5, 2011 in a Parisian hospital. On the session, he was joined by his son and other sons of musicians who had been with Zani since the 1960s when they put together Mali’s first ‘private orchestra’. Those last recordings have been released by Sterns Music and are available on Tientalaw. This set finds Zani in fine form with a great group of musicians accompanying him. While Zani may have passed, his music never will and Tientalaw is a sincere reminder of how great he was.

World Service has been kind enough to upload some excellent footage of the Super Djata Band during their heydey in the mid-eighties on youtube. Here is a great video of “Djegnogo Djougou” from a 1984 concert in Paris. The song starts out slow with some drums, Zani’s frenzied guitar playing and Daouda ‘Flani’ Sangaré belting out the vocals. All of a sudden, Zani starts up on a quick riff that drives the band into one of the most intense grooves I’ve ever heard. Check it out below.

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