Issa Bagayogo, Fused Traditional African Sounds with Modern Dance Beats

Live at Roots & Routes, 2003

Issa Bagayogo (1961-October 10, 2016) played an ancient African instrument, the kamele n’goni, also known as the “hunter’s harp.” It is a 6-stringed instrument that is plucked like a banjo or guitar and is commonly used to accompany traditional vocals.

Bagayogo’s international breakthrough came in 1998, with the release of his album Sya on the Six Degrees Records label. Teaming up with French  keyboardist Yves Wernert, Bagayogo paired the n’goni with loops, samples and lyrics dealing with current topics like drugs, AIDS and cultural pride. Suddenly, the ancient rhythms of Africa were transformed into topical techno dance beats. It earned him the nickname “Techno Issa.”

The New York Times Jon Pareles noted similarities between African music and electronica in a 2002 review of Bagayogo: “Both use pattern and repetition to get people moving; both are willing to assimilate whatever comes along.”

“Diarabi” on Spotify