Musical Archives of West Africa The 1970s in Bouake

Bernard Mondet’s collection

An important inter-cultural and commercial crossroads in the centre of the Ivory Coast, the town of Bouake prospered during the 20th century around one of the richest and most colourful markets of West Africa. Working in this town in the mid 1970s, the biologist Bernard Mondet was fascinated by the Ivorian, Ghanaian, Malian, Guinean or Voltaic musical traditions he encountered there. Armed with his Nagra tape recorder and a pair of microphones, he collected a vast number of sound documents in which Senufo and Bobo balafons, lute harps kora of the Manding, Peul and Mossi flutes and Birifor musical bows are mingled skilfully.

From entomology to music recording

Kéla, Mali

Kéla, Mali, 1978.

Bernard Mondet, Yamoudou Diabaté and Ibrahimadjan Kamissoko

Photo : A. Dramé.

Bernard Mondet was first a researcher in medical entomology at the Research Institute for Development (RID, formerly ORSTOM) from 1972 to 2000. Established in Bouake (Ivory Coast) from 1974 to 1979, he met there Adama Dramé, virtuoso master of the djembe drum who introduces him among the town's musical artists. Following this meeting, he became passionate about local musical traditions. Anxious to preserve them as well as possible, Bernard Mondet undertook to organize recording sessions with the best musicians met in Bouake. These come from all regions of Ivory Coast, but also from Mali, Guinea, Senegal and Burkina Faso.


Bouak, February 1978.

Bobo musicians playing a balafon and a bara kettledrum.

Photo : B. Mondet

His field travel in different regions of Ivory Coast, southern Mali, Burkina Faso and Cameroon allow him to continue, in addition to his research in biology, his music collection work.

Donation of the sound archive collection to the MEG

In May 2018, Bernard Mondet donated to the MEG's International Archives of Folk Music (IAFM) his collection of sound archives from West Africa, consisting of more than 50 hours of music recorded on magnetic tapes and fully digitized. This collection is being cataloged and integrated into the IAFM databases by students of the Master's degree in ethnomusicology (Geneva and Neuchâtel University, Haute école de musique Genève).

Environs de Bouaké

Around Bouake, December 16, 1975

Serdu flute and gegeneru fiddles played by Fulani musicians.

Photo : B. Mondet

Preparing a CD to be released

The eight tracks presented on the CD Musical Archives of West Africa. The 1970s in Bouake. Bernard Mondet’s collection have been selected from this sound archive collection. The original magnetic tapes were digitized again and restored in September 2019 by David Hadzis, at the Arthanor Productions studio (Geneva).

This CD gives an overview of musical life in the 1970s in Bouake, the second most populous town in Ivory Coast. It presents pieces from the traditional repertoires of African griots and their flagship instruments: the kora and the balafon.

The recordings are accompanied by a 28-page booklet with an introductory text by Vincent Zanetti (French / English) and a dozen black and white and color photographs, taken by Bernard Mondet together with the sound recordings.


Bouaké, 1978.

Lute harp kora, played by Djelimany Cissoko.

Photo : B. Mondet

It is the very first CD to be released in the "Archives" series on the new MEG-AIMP label, which continues the collection of records founded in 1984 by Laurent Aubert and directed by Madeleine Leclair since 2012.

Archives musicales d’Afrique de l’Ouest

Musical Archives of West Africa. The 1970s in Bouake

Recordings and photographs by Bernard Mondet

Edition : Musée d’ethnographie de Genève

Editor : Madeleine Leclair


© et ℗ 2020 MEG-AIMP

Avalible on SoundCloud


Carrefour interculturel et commercial important au centre de la Côte d’Ivoire, la ville de Bouaké s’est épanouie au cours du 20e siècle autour de l’un des marchés les plus riches et colorés d’Afrique de l’Ouest. Quand l’entomologiste Bernard Mondet s’y retrouve au milieu des années 1970, il se passionne pour les traditions musicales ivoiriennes, ghanéennes, maliennes, guinéennes ou voltaïques qu’il y rencontre. Armé d’un enregistreur à bandes et d’une paire de microphones, il réalise une collection importante de documents sonores où se croisent avec bonheur les balafons senufo et bobo, les harpes-luths kora des griots mandingues, les flûtes peul et mossi ou l’arc musical birifor.

Solo de flûte (extrait plage 06)

Fichier audio

Track list


01 Suba ni mansaya (« La magie et le pouvoir royal »)
02 Musique de mariage
03 Chant, vièle et calebasse frappée
04 Balafons
05 Duo de flûtes
06 Solo de flûte
07 Arc musical
08 Sunjata faasa


Total duration : 42’34