Some bands score a few hits, some change the face of music and some end up defining an whole era. Les Ambassadeurs did all three. During their decade and half of existence, from 1970 to 1985, this West African supergroup wrote and rewrote the rule book for the Manding pop that was to achieve global success during the ‘world music’ boom of the 1980s and 1990s.
They forged a new sound out of the dreams and tensions of post-Independence West Africa: socialism, pan-Africanism, black pride, authenticité, salsa, jazz, soul, rock’n’roll and the ancient art of the griots. They gave the Malian everyman and everywomen a chance to reconcile their instinctive pride in West Africa’s illustrious past with their equally instinctive desire to be fully engaged in the modern world. “Above all”, says Salif Keita, Les Ambassadeurs’ most famous ‘son’, “they taught Malians to love their own music.”
The reunion of Les Ambassadeurs is a banner headline long dreamt of by Malians, West Africans and lovers of African music the world over. What the band’s surviving singers and instrumentalists are preparing to deliver when they stroll on stage this summer is more than just nostalgia for a time when Mali was young and drunk on the hooch of hope and possibility, more than an excuse to rekindle past friendships and relive old glories and more than an hour or two of unforgettable Malian orchestral pop.
What Les Ambassadeurs will deliver is proof that Malian musicians, given the right conditions and support, can create truly revolutionary music. That’s exactly what happened back in those salad days in the 1970s when Les Ambassadeurs were the pride of Mali and West Africa, and that’s what will happen again if the country can face its demons, heal its fractured soul and get back to the business of creating conditions in which music and culture can flourish.
Les Ambassadeurs feat. Salif Keïta, Cheick Tidiane Seck & Amadou Bagayoko
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | 20:00 CET
Haus der Kulturen der Welt | John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10 | 10557 Berlin/Tiergarten