In the aftermath of the Guinean Independence in 1958 and the encouragement of cultural pride, numerous bands sprang up throughout the African country. The most popular was Bembeya Jazz National, formed by vocalist Aboubacar Dembar Camara in 1961. Specializing in modern arrangements of Manding classic tunes, Bembeya Jazz National won the first two national Biennale festivals in 1962 and 1964 and was crowned National Orchestra in 1966.
Initially a seven-piece group, featuring a Latin-flavored horn section of saxophone, trumpet, and clarinet, Bembeya Jazz National reached its apex with the addition of electric guitarist Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabate and lead singer Sekouba Mabino Diabate (no relation). Although prohibited from touring outside Guinea until the mid-'80s, Bembeya Jazz National continued to build a cult-like following in its home country.
Bembeya Jazz National's most ambitious album, Regard Sur Le Passe, released in 1968, was a musical tribute to the memory of Samory Toure, who founded the Mande kingdom in 1870. A live album, 10 Ans De Succes, was recorded during a 1971 concert.
A set-back for the band came in 1973 when Camara was killed in an auto accident on his way to a concert in Dakar. Although they remained together for another eight years, Bembeya Jazz National was unable to duplicate the success of their earliest years. The group disbanded in 1991 with Sekou Diabate and Sekouba Bambino Diabate going on to successful solo careers. ~ Craig Harris