Sorry Bamba was born in 1938 in Mopti — “The Venice of Mali” — a city whose setting at the confluence of the Niger and Bani rivers made it a true cultural crossroads. This diversity sparked an unsinkable curiosity and passion for learning that characterizes Sorry’s career to this day.
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Sorry Bamba’s father was a noble, and a veteran of the Emperor Samory Touré’s army. In Mali’s caste-based society, this meant that he was forbidden to play music, an art reserved exclusively for griots. However, after being orphaned at a very young age, he turned to music for solace, particularly a six-holed flute that kept him busy day and night.
It was in 1957 that Sorry formed his first band, Group Goumbé, named after a dance craze from the Ivory Coast. Consisting of little more than some percussion instruments and a trumpet, Group Goumbé became popular with the young people of Mopti, publicizing their performances in a small van equipped with a loudspeaker.
In the fall of 1960, Mali gained its independence from France. A new spirit swept the land, epitomized by the fledgling country’s first president, the charismatic Modibo Keďta. Radio Mali was created to promote the nation’s lush musical heritage, as well as to encourage its modernization. This artistic call-to-arms was not lost on Sorry, whose Group Goumbé (now called Bani Jazz) had already begun to modernize its sound. Through Youth Weeks held in the capital city of Bamako, performances and competitions brought together the most talented artists of Mali’s six regions to create a national community, dedicated to the progress of the republic.
Nobody embodied this spirit of innovation more than Sorry Bamba. From 1968–1981, Sorry worked tirelessly as the director of Mopti’s dance troupe and the arranger of their traditional ensemble. But his greatest legacy is his time as the leader of the Regional Orchestra of Mopti (essentially a rechristened Bani Jazz). Sorry’s group competed in six National Biennials, taking home the grand prize in 1976, 1978 and 1980. By that point, they had become known as the Kanaga Orchestra, a name symbolizing the God Amma, creator of the Dogon people. This is the period of time covered on this record.
It is important to note that this compilation was created with the direct input of Sorry Bamba himself. His enthusiasm and patience are remarkable for someone whose extreme underexposure borders on the criminal. However, while it is easy to characterize the man, to try to classify Sorry Bamba’s music is to do it a gross disservice. The only truly suitable word is MAGIC!