Words by Martin Sinnock
The last recordings of Africando’s late, great singer
In the latter part of his life the singer Amadou Balaké, who passed away in August 2014, was a prominent member of the African salsa supergroup Africando. Prior to Africando, he released somesplendid LPs under his own name, including several for the Ivorian label Sacodisc/Lassissi – some of which has subsequently been made available on CD. In Conclusion is an appropriately respectful release of Balaké’s final recordings made in 2013 in Ouagadougou, the capital of his home country Burkina Faso. He is accompanied by young local musicians and on three tracks he revisits some of his past repertoire. Throughout a career that commenced in the 60s he has performed a mixture of West African styles, featuring local warba (or waraba) rhythms and the Mande music popular throughout Mali and Guinea. In addition there are Afro-Cuban and blues influences, along with the funk of Afrobeat.
Despite the variety of styles there is a strong sense of cohesion and completion in the song selection. It’s all incredibly earthy and flows magnificently, with no superfluous production or intrusive instrumentation. Some tracks are led by ngoni (lute), some by balafon (wooden xylophone), with guitar backing, occasional saxophone and trumpet and a swirling organ. Amadou Balaké has an eminently likeable voice, with just the right amount of smokiness and a slightly raspy character. It’s a faultless release that stands as a fitting tribute to a truly great artist.