The Soninke collective consciousness finds its origins in a founding myth, a blood pact: the legend of Biida and the decadence of the empire of Ghana or Wagadu (evoked by Léopold Sédar Senghor as a land of plenty in his poem Le Kaya Magan). From the 3rd century AD, gathered in the region of Sahel, on the edge of the Sahara desert, the Soninko ruled over their kingdom and its capital Kumbi Saleh. According to folklore, they were blessed with abundant rain and nuggets of gold could be picked directly from the ground.
They owed this prosperity to a providential but cruel protector: the Wagadu Biida, a seven-headed serpent who lived at the bottom of the Kumbi well. Every year, as a reward for his favours, the Biida demanded an offering: the life of the most beautiful virgin woman in the community. Sacrifices took place for generations, until the 13th century AD, when fate chose Siya Yatabéré, Maamadi Sehedunxote’s sweetheart…
Centuries later in 1977, Gaye Mody Camara, a young Soninke raised in Mali’s Kayes region, settled in France to found his own empire. Initially selling wax, kola nuts and other goods in his Parisian outlets, he rapidly started distributing cassette tapes and eventually producing a multitude of recordings for his own label: Camara Production.
Crossing paths and collaborating over the next four decades with legendary artists, griots and industry moguls like Boncana Maïga, Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Ganda Fadiga, Diaby Doua or Ibrahima Sylla, Camara became one of the great independent music producers of his generation, and a pilar of the Parisian Soninke diaspora.
Released in close collaboration with Gaye Camara and with the assistance of Daouda N’diaye, one of A.P.S’ (Association pour la Promotion de la langue et de la culture Soninké) historical members, this selection of songs and accompanying notes aim to shed a light on an intricate culture and its modern music, injustifiably unknown outside of West Africa and the various Soninko diasporas around the world.
From Malian Zouk to Mauritanian Reggae and other psychedelic groovers originally released on cassettes or digitally, we have given the utmost attention to bringing this music to a new format. It has been carefully remastered and pressed on 180g vinyl, with riso printed liner notes.