Words by Nigel Williamson
Born in Guinea-Conakry, singer and percussionist Amara Touré wandered peripatetically across West African music for 20 or so years – and then disappeared. In 1958, he was in Senegal where he became a member of Le Star Band de Dakar. He stayed for a decade before heading to Cameroon, where he formed the Black and White ensemble. By 1980 he had moved on again, this time to Gabon to team up with L’Orchestre Massako. After that, the trail runs cold. He was reported to have returned to Cameroon, but nobody knows today whether he’s still alive.
He left behind just ten tracks, all of them included here – six of which were released as singles with Black and White and four elongated pieces from his 1980 album with L’Orchestre Massako. They’re more than enough to make him a West African legend. On the Black and White tracks his supple voice shimmers and shimmies over classically languid, Orchestre Baobab-style Afro-Cuban rhythms. The recording quality is basic, even after modern digital remastering; but the atmosphere is scintillating. The L’Orchestre Massako tracks are similarly marinated in swaying Cuban rhythms with a touch of Mande roots, but are more elongated, as Amara and his band stretch out over pieces that are eight or nine glorious minutes long. One of Analog Africa’s best crate-digging excavations to date.