Kwi Bamba & l’Orchestre de Gama Berema (LP)

Kwi Bamba & l’Orchestre de Gama Berema (LP)


“Master” Kwi Bamba was the saxophonist for Nimba Jazz, hailing from N’Zerekore in the Republic of Guinea. Much like the better-known group Bembeya Jazz, the mission of this federal band, formed in 1960, was to promote traditional Guinean music with modern instrumentation. Nimba Jazz was original in its use of the rhythms and singing styles associated with the animist ethic groups from the Forested Guinea region, and in particular the Guerzé (or Kpelle) ethnic group.

When I met Kwi Bamba in 1997, the golden age of music as a propaganda tool under the regime of President Sekou Toure was over and Kwi had joined the N’Zerekore military brass band, just to be able to play music on a daily basis. Membership in the band also allowed him to borrow an instrument, although the reeds were not provided so he had to make them himself (which meant he had to blow extremely hard).

One day, Kwi — with whom I had already recorded pieces by Nimba Jazz (re-formed with young mu-sicians and singers) — suggested that I record a band he had joined, which wished to make an audio cassette to sell for promotional purposes. We set a date, and headed off one Saturday with Kwi to Gama Berema, the capital of the subprefecture in the prefecture of Lola, on the border of the Ivory Coast.

In order to achieve a good “studio” recording without an audience, the band took over a house under construction. It turned out that the room was too small for all of the musicians with their amplifiers and speakers — oversized models from the Soviet Union. Plus, there was the moving of the equipment to the building, the presence of the audience for the live recording and the background noise (which, unfortunately, wasn’t really in the background!) of the electric generator powering the sound system… After a few liters of raffia wine — an essential part of any event in Forested Guinea — we made our recording in a single take (of course), complete with a false start, whistling microphones, a rumbling motor and a minidisc recording device that was so small I had to keep playing back a test piece for the musicians in order to reassure them that my material and I were credible.

The recording was complete, and a few weeks later an audio tape was circulating around Forested Guinea and duplicated in the Ivory Coast, sporting a cover without a single credit. But the most impor-tant thing is that the music exists, is it not?

It’s 2018, and many years have passed since then. The village of Gama Berema, like the rest of the region, has not been spared from hardship between the Liberian child soldiers and the Ebola virus. “Master” Kwi was already quite old, but I’m holding on to the hope that he or his descendants will be able to listen to this album…

I am delighted that this musical moment can live on.

Frédéric Migeon


Also available for download:  Cristal Records /





Let’s join our hands, Guinea is a family

 2.OULELE (2)
I want to leave my home village Oulélé, let me go away

Hankerchief game played by children, at night, under the moon

4.DAMA WEY (1 & 2)
Each night, I go hunting in the forest


Mum knows her own child better than anyone else

What haven’t we done yet together?

The young girl is beautiful and pretty, men of the village desire her, but she’s too proud to say yes

(1) In kono language / (2) In guerze language



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