Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta cover

Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta


The heart of Numero Group’s Bobo Yéyé collection is a monograph of Sory Sanlé’s photographic work with his Volta Photo business, documenting the feverish socio-cultural energies of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). They’re gorgeous images, capturing, with sensitivity and depth, the characters and dreams of their subjects, positioned at the beginnings of an uncertain but creative post-colonial era. But the three discs of music accompanying the monograph are just as potent. With a disc each from Orchestre Volta Jazz and Tidiani Coulibaly  et l’Authentique Orchestre Dafra Star, and another disc featuring associated acts, it documents the slow unshackling of the music, and the people, from French colonial rule. You can hear traces of Cuban music here, the entwined, rippling guitars of lingala, and more; Volta Jazz’s music is limber and spirited, full of psychedelic energy, particularly on cuts like “Dounya Te Soyé,” where the recording overload saturates the music with distortion. It’s thrilling stuff. There are melancholy R&B numbers dotted throughout, and they’re often the heartstoppers on the set – there’s something about the way the groups keep these songs afloat, across a tangle of threaded guitars, that’s beautifully compelling. A compelling selection of music that’s rhythmically and melodically seductive in equal measure.

Jon Dale

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