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With little money and even less experience I crossed the Sahara via Morocco and spent a few weeks in Mauritania before returning home.This brief voyage had given me just a glimpse of the region, but it was sufficient to drive my determination to return.Descendants from the formation of the Empire of Mali in the thirteenth century AD, today they number approximately twenty million people with significant populations in the nations of Mali, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and The Gambia.In Guinea they are known as fulfil a multiplicity of roles in Mandé communities, including that of genealogists, arbiters, and masters of ceremonies at life events (births, circumcisions, weddings and funerals).I surmised that these were the master tapes for potential Syliphone releases.A handwritten list of some fifty of these audio reels was produced, which I understood to be the archive’s complete holdings.In a systematic and calculated process, France withdrew all assistance and support, and introduced a range of punitive economic measures that both impoverished and isolated the new nation.
Another remarkable feature was the excellent quality of the audio.
I was compelled to go to West Africa because of my interest in the origins of the Blues, and my research led me on a journey to trace its roots via the trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa to the New World., and this inspired my broader enquiries into the music of the region.
The Mandé are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa.
The sound engineer’s positioning of the microphones, the subtle use of echo effects, and the fidelity of the production were of the most exceptional standard when compared with recordings of a similar type.
Such high quality audio had captured Guinea’s musicians at their best, and they clearly rivalled, if not surpassed, the great singers and groups from neighbouring Mali and Senegal.
The building had been bombed by artillery and the collection of Syliphone discs was lost.