Les Frères Guissé - BIOGRAPHY
As schoolkids they used to play hide and seek - but with their parents who didn’t want them to do music. They used every trick in the book to get into little amateur bands with their schoolfriends during the holidays. Eventually, once they were sure of their ambitions to go professional, Djiby Cheikh and Aliou withdrew to form their own group.
For twenty years the Frères Guissé have been one of the mainstays of the Senegalese music scene, joining the country’s artistic élite with the release of their first local album (Fama cassette, 1995). Consisting of two guitarists and a percussionist, the trio’s mastery of their instruments lies in the subtlety of their playing. Amazing dexterity, smooth vocals and evocative lyrics have distinguished them both as an acoustic act to listen to and also an impressive live proposition. Their repertoire is a mosaic of subjects, languages and cultures and appeals to a cosmopolitan crowd. They may be rooted in the Pulaar tradition but they compose with ease in Wolof, handle Serer and Mandinka standards and sing in French. They may even navigate influences between jazz and blues but always with a strong attachment to the Peulh music of West Africa. They have been inspired by Ali Farka Touré, Boubacar Traoré, Touré Kunda and many others with whom they soon began sharing stages at festivals around the world.
Prior to this, the Senegalese public was used to seeing more populous lineups on stage. But these three musicians struck a chord with the youth who were looking for a new sound and message to speak to them. Very quickly they began identifying with the trio, which came to symbolise a new wave of musicians who were younger and more daring with their lyrics, styles and general approach.
These assets made them one of the biggest draws at the Tringa - a nighclub that became very popular with the discerning crowd, and was founded by Mamadou Konté who was behind the famous Africa Fête festival, in addition to being the manager of Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo and Positive Black Soul amongst others. Their reputation opened the doors to the African Market of Performing Arts (MASA) in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) in 1997.
MASA is the African equivalent of WOMEX - a great gathering in Africa of the world’s producers and broadcasters. Their showcase gig before this audience of tastemakers would be a turning point in their career. Despite not even having an album to promote on the international circuit, invitations to tour began flooding in from Morocco, France, Belgium, England, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Vietnam, United States and Canada (where they were winners of the Prix Miroir of the Francophone Region at the Festival d’Été in Quebec.)
- The first tour of France took place as part of the Africa Fête that Mamadou Konte was organising, which was also the first African festival in France.
- The University of Dakar worked with its United States partners in order to take the group on a tour of the states of Philadelphia, Kansas, New York and others.
- The International Francophonie Organisation invited them to Vietnam, which had just become a member.
- In Canada no sooner had they arrived than they performed at two of the country’s most prestigious festivals - the Festival d’Été in Quebec and Montreal’s Nuits d’Afrique. During this they won the Francophone Area prize, where Oumou Sangaré was President of the Jury.
In time off between overseas engagements, the group reconnected with their homeland and enchanted the music-lovers of Dakar. Planète Café, the club where they played many residencies during the 2000s, was turning people away at the door on Friday nights. Whilst remaining loyal to their roots, the Frères Guissé continued to take advantage of various opportunities abroad to widen their horizons. Under the auspices of the Dutch label Mundial Productions they recorded the albums Fouta with the Paul Van Kemenade Quintet and Nina with Léoni Jansen. These successful collaborations has kept the band’s shows in demand for many years in the Benelux countries. Their travels and experiences during this period culminated in the album Yaakar (2008), which reflected their musical quests during these years.
Such international musical exchanges breathed life into the group and spurred them on to discover other aspects of Senegalese music, which until then was best known for the domination of rhythm, and for the large number of performers on stage. The Frères Guissé, however, adhered strictly to their trio formation.
The Frères Guissé are originally from Fouta, the northern region of Senegal which is famous for the abundance and diversity of its culture as well as for the nomadic patterns of the population. This is perhaps why the trio has always been on the hunt for new sounds and scenes, and led them into many co-productions with artists from other countries.
Since 2010 the band has been regularly received in Brazil, where they have appeared in the company of several celebrities such as Jefferson Goncalves who they subsequently invited to Senegal. They have co-written material with artists such as Marcelo Pretto, their music flowing like a river destined not to return to its source but to empty into the world’s musical ocean, never forgetting its origins.
So it is that in the last two years the doors of Slovenia have also swung wide, following a collaboration with Vlado Kreslin consisting of an ambitious exchange of blues influences on his album Never Lose Your Soul. They took the stage in Ljubljana in December 2015 for two sold-out concerts and have also invited Vlado to Senegal.
Having already forged a reputation for lyrics dealing with the struggle against poverty, the defence of the rights of women and children and the protection of the environment, the Frères Guissé back their words with deeds. The group is proactive in social and humanitarian initiatives for the benefit of schools, universities, street children and young musicians. As environmental activists they inaugurated the first Festival of the Environment in Africa in 2005 as a real platform for environmental advocacy and education in sustainable development and the promotion of the green economy.
Oct 2021 Dubai Expo universal
2019- 2020 COVID
July – Nov 2018 China Tour
April 2018 APPOLO THEATRE NEY YORK
April 2017 Est Europa Tour in Croitia and Slovenia
Fev 2016 French Tour ( Toulouse, Strasbourg, Monmpellier,Grenoble5)
Dec 2015 in Slovenia sankare doom salle
April 2015 French Tour 2015
April 2014 performance with the most popular singer in slovénie Vlado krinsley,
Nov 2013 Festival Baguiliba French people organizing a big African festival in south in France
April 2012Festival of Black Arts in Bello Horizonte, Brazil where they represented Senegal for this warm-up festival, which first took place in Dakar in 1966.
July 2012Return to the Nuit d’Afrique Festival in Montreal - the first African festival in Montreal for 30 years. What’s more, the group has been invited back almost every year since.
November 2011Concerts in prisons in the south of France (Grasse, Nice etc). They gave about a ten concerts as part of a personal development programme for prisoners that ended with them dancing, singing and playing African percussion with the band.
April - June/July 2010Tours in Côte d’Ivoire, France, Spain, Holland and Canada.
October - November 2009Tours in Holland, France, Francofolies in La Rochelle - a large prestigious festival in France.
May 2010Beginning of cultural exchange programme with Brazil, which enabled the group to discover strong links between African music and other styles originating with the descendants of slaves living in disadvantaged areas of Pernambouco.
April - October 2008Tours in Spain and Italy, and also the Indiana Black Expo in the USA, where the black community sought to showcase role models for future generations by bringing together individuals from all over the USA who had achieved positions of responsibility in society.
June 2007Cultural exchanges with US universities, where the Frères Guissé led cultural conferences and workshops on African culture, eg at Swathmoor University, Kansas.
April - July 2006Tour of schools in Italy and cultural exchanges with US universities.
April - July 2005Tour of Morocco: Festival of Popular Arts in Marrakech, where the Moroccan public really discovered and fell for this kind of music. The band performed at a packed concert at Jamalfna Square through which thousands of tourists visiting Marrakech pass every day.
July 2003Concerts and workshops in Italy, where the young people surrounded the group while singing, dancing and playing percussion. They later joined the group on stage during the concert.
June 2002Concerts at the MASA in Côte d’Ivoire at the market of the performing arts in Africa, where the Frères Guissé had been chosen to represent Senegal.
1999Les Nuits Atypiques de Koudougou festival in Koudougou, Burkina Faso situated 100km from the capital Ouagadougou and home town of leader Thomas Sankara. The group appeared there for four consecutive years.
June 1999Shows in Mauritania.
April 1998Concerts in Vietnam courtesy of the ACCT.
November 1997Moers Music Festial in Duisberg, Germany followed by Afro Springsteen in Zurich the next day. The two cities are ten hours apart by train and the group found it exhausting but exciting to eat and sleep on the train on a journey that was longer than the return trip to Senegal. And then back to the schedule in Germany the following day…
February 1997The tenth anniversary of the passing of historian Cheikh Anta Diop also marked the occasion of the band’s first encounter with Ali Farka Touré, who was representing Mali. He watched the trio’s show and demanded to play with ‘these Frères Guissé youngsters’. The following evening a big concert was hastily organised at the Sorano National Theatre in Dakar. This was a great success and resulted in much positive press for the group, as well as sealing a friendship with the Malian star.