Touré Kunda - Biography
Touré Kunda was one of the first African bands to make a big impression on the French and American markets. The Touré brothers couldn’t lose with their mix of African and Caribbean beats, and they scored an international hit in 1984 with the live album Touré Kunda: Live Paris — Ziguinchor (Celluloid Records), which sold over 250,000 copies. A series of personal and band-related disasters (including the unexpected death of Amadou Tilo Touré and the departure of their backing band, who went on to become Kaoma of “Lambada” fame) slowed their initial momentum, but they have remained active on the Parisian Afro-pop scene. In 1999, Santana recorded their song “Africa Bamba” on his multi Grammy-winning album Supernatural (1999 Arista) and took the reunited band on tour with him. The younger Touré brothers have made several fine albums of global pop under different names, while Ismaila and Sixu continue to carry the torch as Touré Kunda.
Diaby Touré, the father of the Touré brothers, had five wives, each from different Senegalese tribal backgrounds. Their sons Amadou, Ismaila, Sixu, and Ousmane were pals from birth and learned drumming and the kora (African harp) from local griots, traditional musicians with a vast knowledge of history and folklore. Amadou, Ismaila, and Sixu joined a theatrical group and learned stagecraft, dance, costume design, and music. By the late 1960s, the brothers were in folkloric bands and Congolese rumba groups, but found it hard to make a living. They moved to Paris in 1981 and Ismaila got a job drumming for Wasis Diop’s West African Cosmos, which increased his desire to start his own band. He also discovered reggae, a rhythm similar to djabdong (a type of Senegalese ritual music). The brothers wrote tunes based on a fusion of the two rhythms and their shows took off. Their first album, 1980’s Em’ma Africa (Celluloid), was a worldwide smash. Touré Kunda: Live Paris — Ziguinchor (1984 Celluloid), recorded in Paris and Senegal, made them a top box office draw.
In 1983, Amadou died of a heart attack during a performance. The brothers asked Ousmane to come to Paris and Touré Kunda continued with the stunning folkloric album Casamance Au Clair de Lune (1984 Celluloid). They continued experimenting, intent on forging an African-influenced international style. Natalia (Celluloid), produced by Bill Laswell and released in 1985, features Funkadelic keyboard player Bernie Worrell. In 1987, Touré Kunda’s backing band left and became the group Kaoma, peddlers of the Lambada. Ousmane quit the band as well, but Ismaila and Sixu carried on with a new line-up. 1988’s Karadindi (Celluloid) adds more overt rock guitar to their sound while 1990’s Salam (Trema) gets even funkier than Natalia. Hamidou, another Touré brother, briefly joined the band but soon left for a solo career. Under the name Séta Touré, Hamidou has released three smooth albums of Afro-pop. His son Daby Touré found success as a solo artist and as a member of Touré Touré with his cousin Omar.
Meanwhile, the duo of Ismaila and Sixu released Mouslaï (Mesa) in 1996. After Santana recorded their song “Africa Bamba” for his 1999 album Supernatural (Arista), the brothers were invigorated and recorded two new albums — Légende (1999 Celluloid), a re-recording of some of their best known tunes, and Terra Saabi (2000 Senegal), a cassette for the Senegalese market. The brothers moved back to Senegal in 2002 and put together one of their most eclectic collections yet in 2008 for Santhiaba (Wagram), which combines the influences of Cuba, the Congo, Guinea, Ghana, and Liberia, as well as tribal rhythms from various ethnic groups from Senegal. “Ah Diatta” blends Mozart’s “Turkish March” with an Africanized samba, and there’s even a techno dance track. The environmentally conscious brothers packaged the CD in a cardboard slipcase and only used recycled supplies for their promotional materials.