For anyone unfamiliar with the highly influential Les Ambassadeurs they were a Malian big band originally formed in 1969 by an ambitious army lieutenant, a key member of the new junta which had seized power only the previous year. He decided that a band was needed to entertain customers at the Motel De Bamako, then a popular venue set in the shade of mango trees on the banks of the river Niger. With his patronage, a group coalesced and in 1972 it attracted guitarist Kanté Manfila, followed a year later by perhaps its most famous member, Salif Keita (read Neil’s review of his 2013 album Talé).
Keita was a member of the Rail Band but this new band offered him the scope to explore other forms of music including jazz and Latin-American. Their outward looking approach helped shape a new musical offering.
For audiences at the time, it was a revelation. Cheick Tidiane Seck was also part of the story. He was both in the Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs as keyboardist. He was one of the mainstays of the bands. He introduced Amadou Bagayoko to Manfila in 1974. Manfila was supposed ‘to teach him the musette waltzes, tangos and paso doble’, said Cheick. This led the visually impaired guitarist to become a member of Les Ambassadeurs, well before breaking through on the world stage with the duo Amadou & Mariam.
As well as performing at this year’s WOMAD Charlton Park they will be performing a special show at London’s Barbican on 26th July. The lineup includes original members alongside the Rail Band and Salif Keita’s current band.
Their reunion is timed with the release of a double CD via Sterns Music Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, a compilation of specially mastered recording from 1975 – 1977, when the band was at its peak and in residence at the Motel de Bamako.
05 Roskilde Festival – Roskilde (DK)
06 Afrika Festival – Hertme (NL)
25 La Mar de Musicas – Cartagena (SP)
26 Barbican Hall – London (UK)
27 Womad Charlton Park – Malmesbury (UK)
02 Esperanzah! – Floreffe (BE)
03 Festival du Bout du Monde – Crozon (FR)
08 Way Out West – Goteborg (SE)
09 Flow Festival – Helsinki (FI)
15 Mela Festival – Oslo (NO)
Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako is released on 26th July via Sterns Music