Kouame Sereba

Biography

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kouame Sereba was born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. He was sent by his parents to their native village Tiegba at the age of 10. Living there he learned about traditional life, music and dance. By the age of 20, he travelled across the African continent where he visited and lived in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameron, Central African Republic, Sudan and Egypt. In 1983 Kouame moved to Norway, where he is based today. Here, he plays an important role in the music scene. In addition to his solo projects he collaborates with musicians of many different styles; jazz, folk, contemporary, as well as traditional and modern African music.

Having played hundreds of concerts in Norway, Kouame has been embraced by the government. The foreign department has sponsored tours in Japan, Germany and Africa. Kouame even accompanied Norwegian prime minister Bondevik to Mozambique and South Africa. In addition to playing guitar, percussion and djembe, Kouame is a master of the Dodo, a mouth harp known for its overtone-rich, almost electronic sound.

Kouame Sereba sings is song “Atolago” in the Hollywood film The Interpreter. A film by Sydney Pollack. Starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. You can hear the song inside the United Nations bulding (Drowning Man Trail) and at End Credits of the film.

The music of Kouame Sereba on this album has been described as “Ambient Afrobeat”, a new World music genre. Well I’m not so sure it’s quite new, as this mix with traditional African instruments and electronica have been done several times before, my first thought was Issa Bagayogo, but there are many others as well. Anyway, Kouame Sereba is here with his “Bako” album, and it is not a bad attempt at all. Erik Woello is there behind the keyboards to assist him, and the sound is pretty airy. Sereba’s main instrument on this album is his voice, giving a sort of traditional African story telling flair to the music. On the title track there is some floating drumming too. The mood is set and on “Ashoura” Erik Woello comes up with some Pink Floyd/David Gilmore sounding guitar riffs that suit the track perfectly, this is in fact the best track on the album. The music puts you in the reflecting mood, floating, but not without substance. Pretty nice. “Ha Yah” doesn’t give me very much, it’s too monotonous. Like on many tracks Sereba and Woello set a basic rhythm that keeps rolling all through the song. Too many songs are made this way, what I miss on this album is a wider range of rhythm and instrumentation. Even if Erik Woello makes some good work, he cannot compensate for the lack of more real instruments, why don’t you pick up your dodo and guitar on more tracks, Kouame? It would have added a lot to this basic wall of sound. But all in all this is an album that defends the description of contemplative, with a tinge of depth and insight.