Sound archives in West Africa

Authored by: Graeme Counsel

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138237636
eBook ISBN: 9781315299310
Adobe ISBN:


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At independence in 1958 the government of Guinea embarked on a new and radical cultural policy designed to rejuvenate the indigenous arts. Guinea’s cultural policy was called ‘authenticité’, and under the leadership of President Sékou Touré (1958–1984) the state provided artists with opportunities to develop their repertoires with the assistance of direct government funding. Music was a prime focus of authenticité, and new ensembles, theatrical troupes, dance groups and orchestras were created in each of the nation’s 35 prefectures. Guinea’s musicians were recorded by Syliphone, one of Africa’s first state-owned recording labels, with the master copies deposited in the national sound archives. Syliphone recordings, aided by the largest radio transmitter in West Africa, broadcast the nation’s aspirations and ideals, and authenticité was embraced by many African nations as an appropriate response to the colonial era. At over 8000 songs, Guinea’s national sound archives represent one of the largest depositories of music on the African continent. This chapter investigates the content of the sound archives within the context of ownership of intangible cultural heritage and representations of national culture and identity.

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