Music of Guinea

West African music
Benin Burkina Faso
Chad CŰte d'Ivoire
Gambia Ghana
Guinea Guinea-Bissau
Liberia Mali
Mauritania Niger
Nigeria Senegal
Sierra Leone Togo
Western Sahara

Guinea is a West African nation, composed of several ethnic groups. Of these, the music of the Mande has been particularly popular, and internationally well-known, even outside of West Africa and the Mande of Mali.

Guinea's Mande are mostly Maninka-speaking, as are many of the most popular Malian Mande performers. Guinean music, however, is typically swifter and has a more flowing, graceful quality. The guitar plays a very important role. Music is dominated by the jelis, travelling praise-singers who work for wealthy noble patrons.

Popular instruments the ngoni, a distant relative of the banjo, and the balafon. The Susu people are closely associated with the xylophone-like balafon. Famous balafon players include El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyaté and, early in his career, superstar Mory Kanté. The kora, a cross between a harp and a lute, is also widespread.

Popular music

After World War 2, the guitar was imported to Guinea and players like Kant&eacute Facelli and his cousin Kanté Manfila developed their own style of playing.

Independence for Guinea came in 1958, and the first major band in the Guinean popular music tradition formed soon after; this was Bembeya Jazz, a popular dance band. The first dance bands were state-supported orchestras, and included popular groups like Lanaya Jazz, Keletigui et ses Tambourins and Super Boiro. Many of these bands recorded on Syliphone records. Joseph Kabasele, a musician from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, played in Guinea and left a lasting influence on the country's music scene. Bembeya Jazz further enriched Guinea's musical melting pot after visiting Cuba in 1965.

As in Mali, a roots revival occurred in the 1970s with state support from Sekou Touré. Musicians like Salif Keita became very popular, while Mory Kanté, Ousmane Kouyaté and Kanté Manfila became important members of Mali's Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band, along with Keita.

Later, in the 1980s, Mory Kanté began a solo career. Albums like 10 Cola Nuts saw major mainstream success in both Guinea and Mali, as well as some European success. "Yeke Yeke", however, a single from Mory Kanté à Paris, became a European chart-topper in 1988.

See also: Guinean hip hop


  • Duran, Lucy. "West Africa's Musical Powerhouse". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 539-562. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

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