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Bembeya Jazz National

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Bembaya Jazz National is a Guinean jazz group that gained fame in the 1960s for their infectious rhythms. They are considered one of the most significant bands in Guinean music. Many of their recordings are based on traditional folk music in the country and have been fused with jazz and Afropop style. Featuring guitarist Sekou ‘Diamond Fingers’ Diabate, who grew up in a traditional griot musical family, the band won over fans in Conakry, Guinea’s capital city, during the heady days of that country’s newfound independence. Bembeya Jazz fell onto harder times in the 1980s and disbanded for a number of years, but reformed in the late 1990s and has toured Europe and North America in the early 2000s.

In the aftermath of the Guinean Independence in 1958 and the encouragement of cultural pride, numerous bands sprang up throughout the African country. The first dance bands were state-supported orchestras, and included popular groups like Lanaya Jazz, Keletigui Et Ses Tambourins and Super Boiro. The most popular was Bembeya Jazz National, formed by vocalist Aboubacar Dembar Camara in 1961. Specializing in modern arrangements of Manding classic tunes, Bembeya Jazz National won the first two national Biennale festivals in 1962 and 1964 and was crowned National Orchestra in 1966.

Initially a seven-piece group, featuring a Latin-flavored horn section of saxophone, trumpet, and clarinet, Bembeya Jazz National reached its apex with the addition of electric guitarist Sekou “Diamond Fingers” Diabate and lead singer Sekouba Mabino Diabate (no relation).

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