Kanazoé Orkestra: Tolonso

Music Without Borders

Listening Post 211. Time to discuss immigration in musical terms. Popular songs in the so-called developed world revolve mostly around romantic relationships, with an uptick in recent decades of alcohol and drug themes. Lyrics in the developing world focus more on survival, conflict, society and family. Kanazoé Orkestra is a microcosm of immigrant-music dynamics, based in Toulouse and led by Burkina Faso-born Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté, balafon master and heritage-bearing griot. On his band’s second album the three Burkinabé and four French members produce a dazzling soundscape, pulsing with energy and humanity, of West African tradition in a contemporary urban environment. They sing mostly in Dioula (with some French and Ivoirian guest artist Dobet Gnahoré performing in Guro) about modern African struggles, adventure, life’s blessings and scourges, especially the corrupting influences of money and gossip. In Djoroko (Shackles), Gnahoré and Mamadou Dembélé sing lead vocals, focusing on Africa’s ongoing subjugation to hunger and the plundering of its resources (video 1). Tama (Journey) is Diabaté’s introspective look at his own move to France, his rapid percussion sticks seeming to ask as insistently as his lyrics if exile is permanent (video 2). A jazzy tribute to young foreigners who were assaulted in France earlier this year, Dounia (This World) is a philosophical take on suffering in the quest for advancement (video 3). Diabaté’s homeland is never far from his thoughts, and in Bara (Work) he calls on his countrymen—including its balafonists—to labor for the benefit of the nation. And Mousso (Woman) exhorts men everywhere to acknowledge essential support from mothers and partners (video 5). Immigrant artists are often closer to the elemental struggles from which even the most prosperous societies emerged, perhaps uniquely equipped to teach us about our common past—and in the case of Kanazoé Orkestra to impart the lessons with wisdom, vitality and beauty. (Buda Musique)

Kanazoé Orkestra: Tolonso
Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté: Balafon, ngoni, vocals
Mamadou Dembélé: Flute, ngoni, balafon, vocals
Losso Keita: Vocals
Martin Etienne: Saxophone
Stéphane Perruchet: Percussion
Elvin Bironien: Bass
Laurent Planells: Drums

Guest artists
Dobet Gnahoré: Vocals
J.P. Rykiel: Keyboards
Edouard “Doudou” Chaize: Guitar
Kandy Guira: Chorus

Note: Tolonso is the name of Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté’s home village in Burkina Faso and means “place of celebration.” It also echoes the name of Diabaté’s adopted home, Toulouse.

Related post: Kanazoé Orkestra: Miriya, Listening Post 117, September 24, 2017.


Music: Mamadou Dembélé/Lyrics: Mamadou Dembélé, Dobet Gnahoré

(from the Dioula, Guro and French lyrics)
Shackles, you who have bound the Africans
I am speaking to you

Madou: My brothers stand up/Whites say slavery is over
Yet we still see it in Africa/Slavery has never stopped for a single day

How many years/That you have reduced us to slavery?
How many years/Since we forgave you?

Didn’t we have an agreement? Or…
Europeans, tell us clearly/We want to understand
How many years/Have you reduced us to slavery?

Didn’t we have an agreement? Or…
Europeans, tell us clearly/We want to understand

Dobet: You plunder our resources and you treat us as slaves
You manage our wealth and we die of hunger
A nation’s independence is traded for money
But what will become of us if you continue to loot us?
And our children in all this, what will we be able to leave to them?

Madou: The CFA franc/We don’t want it
We don’t want it any more/We don’t want it
Independence of conscience/That’s what we want today

The CFA franc solution: Poverty, Division
Independence in our lands/Freedom, that’s what we want

Dobet: We’re finished with slavery and chains
We must live our independence/All we have is our land

Madou: My brothers, wake up/We Africans, let’s get up now
A country where there is no independence/Such a country is not noble

Dobet: City Africa, city Africa/Independence
City Africa, city Africa/Independence

Madou: People of Africa, wake up


Music & Lyrics: Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté

(from the Dioula lyrics)
Kanazoé never vowed one day to go into exile
I’m going on a journey, I’ll come back, going abroad is not death, I’ll come back
The journey without return, Kanazoé, I’m not in/The journey without return, Diabaté, I’m not in
Journey, let’s journey/As successful as your travels may be, do not forget your family

One morning I woke up, and I decided to travel/My children in tears
Papa is departing/May God go with you

People are not brave, adventurers are brave/A human being does not succeed without blessing
Come, listen/When I sit down I will think of my children
Finding food, I will think of my children/Finding a place to sleep, I will think of my children
Adventure is not easy, let us bless each other/At home, we make promises that we forget when we leave
Whether the adventure is going well or not/Think of your children, think of your wife, of your father

On the adventure there are aggressions/On the adventure there is jealousy
On the adventure there is hunger/Those who leave leave for adventure do not know all this

This is wise counsel/Listen to the counsel
Adventure does not know virtue


Dounia/This World
Music: Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté/Lyrics: Seydou “Kanazoé Diabaté, Losso Keïta

(from the Dioula lyrics)
From birth, you have to understand that life is not easy
Someone who never suffers will not get what he wants
Yesterday is already past, here we are today, tomorrow is in the hands of God
Life is not easy

Kanazoé: When you attain grace/Give thanks the good god
Whoever obtains wealth/he must not boast

Losso: Word of this world/As long as you do not cross a forest
You cannot know what’s inside/This world is full of mystery

We were not born the same day/We do not have the same destiny
We do not have the same luck/We do not have the same manners

To each his destiny/There are people on whom luck will smile tomorrow
For others it will be the day after tomorrow/For others in 4 months
For others in 6 months/For others in 4 years
For others in 8 years/Everyone has his destiny.

Let’s give hope to one another/This world is such that we do not know what can happen


Music: Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté/Lyrics: Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté and Losso Keïta

(from the Dioula lyrics)
If you love your country/Come, on let’s work
Children of the country/Stand up to work the nation
Burkina will not be built while sleeping

We left Burkina for another destination/Whatever country we reach, we hear about our brave ones
In Holland, in Colombia, we hear about our brave ones/In Senegal, Ethiopia, Mali, we hear about our brave ones
And all thanks to what?

Do not you see that our country will not be built while sleeping/It’s work
Captain Thomas Sankara is world famous/It’s work
The country will not be built while sleeping/It’s work
Fespaco and SNC, everyone talks about it/It’s work
It is sworn, the country will not be built while sleeping/It’s work

Artists work for development/Merchants work for it as well
The entire population works/For Burkina

Let’s stand up, in the name of our country/The nation will not be built while sleeping
Children of the country, get up/Policemen, military, get up
Artists, get up

In the name of our country let’s get up and work/It’s work
It’s the work that moves a country forward/It’s work
It’s the job that makes a country grow/It’s work
The nation will not be built while sleeping/It’s work
Merchants work for development

The entire population works as well/The balafonists work, too
For Burkina


Music: Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté/Lyrics: Seydou “Kanazoé” Diabaté and Losso Keita

(from the Dioula lyrics)
If you hear that a man has a long life/
This good fortune he owes to his woman
Women have a sense of forgiveness/If you forgive, your child will be blessed
All our tribute to woman

We need to know the value of woman
Ah, mothers, a successful child is the child of all
People, a successful child is the child of all
Fathers, a successful child is the child of all
If you forgive, your child will be blessed

A child cannot succeed without the blessings of his mother
A child cannot make it in the world without his mother

Kanazoé succeeded, Madou succeeded/Blessed children
Stéphane succeeded, Elvin succeeded/Blessed children
Laurent succeeded, Martin succeeded/Blessed children
If you are forgiving, your child will be blessed

Be tolerant and forgive/A marriage does not endure without the blessing of the mother
An adventurer cannot go forth without the blessing of his mother

If you forgive, your child will be blessed/Have a sense of forgiveness in your homes
If you forgive, your child will be blessed/To be united today is good, in forgiveness and tolerance

If you forgive, your child will be blessed
A marriage does not endure today without the blessing of a woman,
the blessing of a mother, the blessing of a father


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