12 O'Clock Track: Sory Kandia Kouyaté, "N'na" | Bleader

12 O'Clock Track: Sory Kandia Kouyaté, "N'na"

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When brilliant Guinean singer Sory Kandia Kouyaté died on Christmas 1977, his passing was mourned throughout the western part of Africa. He was at the height of his powers, and it seems certain that if he had lived longer—he was just 44—his legend would've reached much farther than his own continent. After Guinea secured its independence in 1958, Kouyaté became one of its most important cultural ambassadors, touring the world with Les Ballets Africains de la République de Guinée (he even sang a duet with Paul Robeson in Austria). Much of his work was with folkloric ensembles, though he did also perform modern music with the great Keletigui et Ses Tambourinis. Africa produced tons of fantastic singers during the postcolonial era, but Kouyaté stands apart with his clarity, sweetness, and delicacy; he seemed to channel classical ideas from the Western world and fuse them with Manding traditions seamlessly. Released earlier this summer, La Voix de la Révolution (Sterns) is a mind-blowing double CD that collects a portion of his recorded output between 1970 and '73, and as you can hear for yourself in today's 12 O'Clock Track, his voice is indeed a thing of rare beauty.

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