The Life and Times of Amara Touré from Guinea
By Zuko Komisa
To fully appreciate the eclectic music that is Afro-Cuban jazz, it’s important to celebrate those who pioneered this sound. One such person is Amare Touré, a legendary Guinean singer, and percussionist. At close analysis, one sees the coloration of elements of African music to Latin Music, which one may argue was due to the many cultural exchanges that transpired throughout many parts of Africa, the captivating drums and rhythm. This was an era when Cuban sailors and merchant traders exported goods from the West African coast and while doing so they not only brought goods, but their infectious music too.
A career that produced iconic offering, Amare Toure’s rise began in the 50s, back in Dakar when he was part of talented acclaimed Senegalese group the Le Star Band de Dakar which had musicians such as Youssou N’Dour, Dexter Johnson and Mady Konate, with singers Laba Sosseh, Papa Serigne Seck.
There were many historic moments during this period. Similar to the reality of freedom in South Africa in 1994, when Kwaito music was born, Senegal had claimed its independence from the claws of the French, a new identity through music was born.
Amare’s rising star was as a result of the Son Montuno & Patchanga scene, the Cuban-influenced musical genre which fused West African and Caribbean melodies. It often happens that musician will tackle a new genre with not so flattering results, this was the opposite with Amare who executes the cross-over immaculately. In his most famous quote he explains why it was important for him to go through this journey, he says:
“Latin music, is it really foreign to us Africans? I don’t think so. Listen to the drums, to the rhythm. It all seems very close to us—it feels like it’s our own culture.”
Fast-forwarding to his most iconic work, upon listening to 1973-1980 by Amare Touré, a showcase of all the 10 songs ever released between that period, one is transported to an exotic and transcendent feeling that clearly indicates true evidence of Latin with hints of African sounds, an impeccable simultaneous use of conflicting rhythms. This was also the first time he was in a recording studio, this album is a classic representation of this Afro-Cuban infused era.
You are likely to get captivated by his voice, catchy drumming skills that make it hard to remain still when you listen to songs such as ‘N’Nijo’, ‘Lamento Cubano’, while a song like ‘Afrika’ can make it to your all-time favourite list of songs about this incredible continent we call our home. The album has soulful jams and layers of incredible depth.
There is a major mystery about his whereabouts, he apparently vanished in the 80’s and was supposedly spotted occasionally in Cameroon. To this day no one knows where he is. Will tell you this though, his music remains authentic and majestic. A must listen to for anyone who adores good music.