Nov 15, 2011

From Burkina Faso: Sandwidi Pierre & Orchestre Harmonie Voltaïque

Let’s start with L’Harmonie Voltaique, the group that was founded by Antoine Ouedraogo in 1948. They were the first group created to play ‘modern music’ in what was then the French West African colony of Upper-Volta. In early 1948 Antoine Ouedraogo was working for the French colonial administration in Mali (which at the time was called the French Sudan). That spring he returned to Upper-Volta and, tired of having to bring groups from the Cote D’Ivoire whenever he wanted to organize a ‘soiree-dansante’, Antoine decided to create the colony’s first modern orchestra. The group was officially born, with the approval of the Colonial Governor of Upper-Volta, on April 8, 1948. Their early repertoire consisted of French Songs (especially the ballads of French crooner Tino Rossi), and Latin rhythms (for e.g. the Cha-Cha, and Bolero). The repertoire started to change in 1964 when the multi-instrumentalist Maurice Sempore (tenor sax, flute) became the bandleader. It was under his leadership that the group started to perform songs in ‘Moore‘ (the language of the Mossi people).

Although recorded in 1970, these next two tracks give some idea of their earlier repertoire. The first track ‘Killa Naa Naa Ye Killa’ is an instrumental, composed by Maurice Sempore. The group categorizes this song as ‘Jazz’. The title refers to an onomatopoeic phrase in Moore that is taught to children to help them with their pronunciation- the equivalent of ‘sally sells seashells by the seashore’. The B-side of the 45 is a Bolero-Cha-Cha that was also composed by Maurice Sempore. It is the story of Therese Baba, a young woman whose parents were very strict. They did all they could to prevent Therese from going out at night to dance, but even though she never left the house, they could not prevent her from getting pregnant.

The liner notes from one of there covers:

Songhoï Records, young African firm, is pleased and proud to present L’Harmonie Voltaïque the orchestra No. 1 of the Republic of Upper Volta.

This popular group that won in 1969 and 1970, twice in succession, the first prize of C. A. L. A. H. V. (Cercle d‘Activités Littéraires et Artistiques de Haute-Volta) is headed by Maurice Sempore.

A versatile musician Maurice Sempore sings, plays tenor saxophone, the guitar, the Cuban flute, trumpet, guitar bass etc. … and his favorite instrument is the tenor sax which he handles with great ease. He is the first composer of modern African music in Upper Volta.


01. Songh man tum kuili
02. Tond yabramba

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