Anyone familiar with the New York African music scene will surely have heard the Mandingo Ambassadors display their gracefully artistic sound to the delight of listeners and dancers. For those unfamiliar with the African musical stylings of this virtuosic ensemble, now is the time for your introduction. Their new album, Tougna, out July 24, 2012 on 1-2-3-4-GO Records, will transport you into another world of dancing and pure musical bliss.
Guitarist, bandleader, and griot, Mamady Kouyate, represents a lineage of musicians stretching back through generations spanning hundreds of years in his native Guinea. He was raised on the traditional music of his people but bridged the gap to the modern music of the times, transposing the traditional music to the electric guitar. He was in the middle of the movement led by President Sekou Toure to form a new national identity for newly independent Guinea, made famous by bands like Bembeya Jazz, of which Mamady is a veteran.
In 2004, Mamady moved to the USA as a political refugee. It was there, in Brooklyn, NY where he started the Mandingo Ambassadors. Composed of African musicians from his native Guinea, as well as Europeans and Americans, he continued the legacy and spread of African music to new generations. The ambassadors' new album, Tougna, is a beautiful collection of songs highlighting Mamady's virtuosic guitar playing with the backing of a lively rhythm section, sailing horns, and the majestic vocals of Bebe Camara.
The Mandingo Ambassadors perform regularly around New York. They were the first African musical act I saw live in person when I was 22 and visiting the city. I saw them in a packed room in Barbes in Park Slope. My mind was completely blown at the beauty of their compositions and their ability to turn the room into a complete dancing frenzy. I've seen them live several times since, and they've never disappointed me in the least. Check out their new album, and if you like what your hear, absolutely see them live in person to experience the real thing.