African Music Encyclopedia


Bembeya Jazz


Bembeya Jazz, originally formed in Beyla, Guinea, have had a central role in the musical culture of Guinea for the past 35 years. The orchestra, varying between 15 and 25 members, features electric guitars, horns, percussion, and vocals. Their sound is an unusual blend of traditional Guinean music with Congo and Islamic influences along with the Cuban rumba sound that infused so many African recordings beginning in the late 1950s.

Originally founded by Aboubacar Demba Camara in 1961, Bembeya Jazz became the official Guinean National Orchestra in 1966. After Aboubacar's untimely death in a car crash in 1973 the orchestra fell apart without his leadership and creative direction. During the later '60s and continuing into the '70s Bembeya toured widely in Africa, occasional visiting Moscow and and even Cuba. In '85 Bembeya toured Europe and record several albums, including Telegramme, Montagne, Bembeya Jazz National, and Yekeke.

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