Occur Goes Global - The Music of Burkina Faso

The BBC paints a grim picture of Burkina Faso: “A poor country even by West African standards, landlocked Burkina Faso has suffered from recurring droughts and military coups.” Furthermore, its musical history is just beginning to pique the interest of foreign ears— a national museum on the topic began in 1998, according to African Seer. Yet with a narrative built on upheaval and an agricultural lifestyle, the rhythms of the people cannot be contained for long. Here are five musical acts to know from Burkina Faso.


Jean Claude Bamogo

Because Burkina Faso is a primarily rural country, African Seer notes that a mainstream, electrified musical culture has yet to take root there. But no one told Bamogo that in the 1970s and 1980s, when he took amplified Western instruments and paired them with the syncopated styles of the Mossi peoples’ Waraba genre. Smooth vocals and hot-stepping beats on the djembe drums made for a revered sound.


Thomas Sankara

Hailed as the African Che Guevara, Sankara saw music as necessary a tool to obtaining freedom as manpower was. His “Une Seule Nuit” (or “L'Hymne de la Victoire”) was adapted in 1984 as his country’s anthem a year after the revolutionary took office as president. Sadly, his reign lasted less than half a decade, when his former Tout-à-Coup band mate Blaise Compaoré launched a real coup against him. Sankara was slain in 1987.


Abdoulaye Cissé and Les Vautours

A friend and compatriot of the above Sankara, Cissé impressed on his own in the realm of jazz. Drawing on French colonial cool and bucolic tempos of the savanna, his Vultures blanketed their infectious melodies with anti-imperialist lyrics. (See their above namesake song for such protests.) The multi-instrumentalist also served as a schoolteacher for decades, according to Le Faso.


La Troupe Saaba

Rich with balafon (wooden xylophone) and the scratch drums native to the Koudougou area, La Troupe Saaba’s offerings are passionate and unrelenting. Drummerszone praises leader Koudbi Koala as “exceptional… a musician, a story-teller, a sage and a charismatic chief.” Born into a blacksmith family, the artist borrowed the trade’s mastery of lightning for his energetic music in 1982. The Troupe’s rehearsals are open to the public, providing raw insight into this labor of love.

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