A great African musician, Ablo Gandema, left us on June 27th. He was a percussionist of vast experience who had lived in Switzerland for more than 30 years. He was best known for having brought bendré music to the attention of those of us living outside Burkina Faso, where he was born on 18 May 1962 in Ouagadougou, capital of Mossi-land, in a family of griots.
From a very young age, he was initiated in the bendré (in the Mossi language of Mòoré, also called the ‘bara’ in Dyula), a sacred ancestral instrument associated with the royal court. He also became a virtuoso on the djembe and on the Mandinka balafon. In the early 1980s, recently arrived in Switzerland, he accompanied the dance class of Paco Yé (Farafina) and Bemba Camara, among others, and forged an excellent reputation. His musical encounters and adventures and his numerous concerts in Switzerland and beyond encouraged him to create his own compositions.
In 1991 he returned to Ouagadougou, where he founded the Bendré Sound Orchestra, quickly recognized as one of the pillars of the Burkinabe musical scene. Invited to the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1994, he was noticed by professionals from the music industry whose advice would have a profound impact on the next stage of his career. From then on he never stopped honing his composing and his distinctly off-beat sound. In 1998 he recorded several successful titles with Daisy et les Sympathiques in Burkina Faso, as well as the music video “Yeene Seogo”, which was broadcast on national TV.
His solo album Arzana, arranged by his friend Randolph Hunziker, appeared in 2001, featuring Ablo Gandema accompanied by talented musicians including Matthieu Michel. That recording serves up music with a loving combination of African tradition and jazz that emits nostalgia-inducing beauty and sensuality.
Ablo Gandema returned to Montreux in 2002 with Randolph Hunziker, a guitarist, and bassist Patrick Perrier. Most recently, he deeply touched us with his musical performance and his sensitivity in the show “Café du Théâtre”, choreographed by Rémy Sciola in Vevey.
This past Sunday, on July 3rd, Ablo was scheduled for a Montreux Jazz performance on the Salsafrica boat with his Bendré Sound Orchestra, a project he was deeply committed to.
He will be interred tomorrow, Tuesday 12 July, at 3pm at the Muslim cemetery in Vevey.