Wagadu Grooves: The Hypnotic Sound of Camara 1987-2016 2xLP 

Format: Vinyl

"A zinging survey of the dazzlingly diverse, thrilling, neglected releases of Gaye Mody Camara, a young Soninke raised in Mali’s Kayes region, who settled in France in 1977. He started out by selling wax, kola nuts, and other items in Paris; and in no time he was distributing cassette tapes, on his way to producing a multitude of recordings for his own label, Camara Production. A fascinating, precious insight into the modern diaspora of an ancient culture, spanning out as Malian zouk, Mauritanian reggae, and a myriad of grooving, head-spinning directions. Prepared in full collaboration with Gaye Camara; with riso-printed notes."

"It is hard in 2024 to reissue music from the African continent while remaining fresh and surprising. Bingo. Hot Mule takes the podium with this compilation from “Camara production” a label founded in Paris, a reference for the Soninke artistic diaspora and other Malian talents. Very deep, tradi-modern and voices... voices!"

"Wagadu Grooves: The Hypnotic Sound of Camara 1987-2016 showcases all the different ways the ancient Soninke sound developed through modern production: the delicate, hypnotic lute set alongside the regular beats of a drum machine and heavily autotuned vocals on opener “Kori,” the synthy reggae of “Yexu,” the endlessly transportive “Koolo Fune,” or the swirling disco of “Tenedo.” All blur the borders between tradition and innovation, and are a tribute to Camara’s efforts to keep Soninke culture alive."

"With the help of this wonderful vinyl 2LP, a lot could be told about the fluidity of culture, about the history of Africa, but also about intercontinental migration, about nation-statehood and much more. The centuries-old history of these recordings is told in detail in the liner notes and can also be read on the Internet. The music itself tells the story. On “Wagadu Grooves: The Hypnotic Sound Of Camara 1987-2016” you can find traces of disco and reggae, but of course also ancient rhythms, autotune meets traditional instruments."

"Hot Mule and partners have produced an essential introductory showcase/revitalisation of Soninke sounds: the very epitome of ‘cool’ and enlightenment. And with it, shed that metaphorical light on a story that needs shouting about. I can’t really fault the collection. And so recommend you make room for it, add to your listening list, and better still, purchase a copy ahead of the rush: I’m anticipating it will sell out fast."

"10/10 comp"

"This here release is, quite unpretentiously, the stuff of legend, actually several legends wrapped into one phenomenal release."

"A way of reliving the Soninké cosmogonies from their beginnings, to their most recent development, stories of prosperity and adventure, of exile and roots, mixed with the sounds of ancient koras or ngoni, just as the digital echoes of synthesizers and vocoders."

"The best thing i've heard so far this year."

"Beautiful sounds from a very unique label – one started in Paris by a Malian merchant in the 80s, in order to both present sounds from his homeland, and all of the wonderful new variations that were taking place on the cross-cultural scene in France! The body of work is partly a compelling document of culture in diaspora, but more importantly presents a nice range of grooves with a vibe that's very different than mainstream music from the time – especially some of the too-commercialized records that were shifting big numbers on the world music scene."

"Beautifullt curated and remastered with the aim of bringing the sound of Camara, and the Soninke diaspora and language to a new audience."

"A ridiculously beautiful record."

"A spectacular collection of funky African grooves"

"I suppose the category is "Electronic griot" and it is consistently high quality, as is the production."

"The whole thing is beautiful."

"Ranging from driving percussive numbers to melodic ballads, this diverse collection showcases Camara’s sonic evolution and timeless talent. As the tracks blur borders between disco, reggae, and soul, listeners’ ears will delight with the echo of a magical musical experience – a chronicle of harmonic creativity that is a fitting tribute to this formidable artist and his brilliant Camara Production label."

"A great name and equally great music."


The Soninke collective consciousness finds its origins in a founding myth, a blood pact: the legend of Biida and the decadence of the empire of Ghana or Wagadu (evoked by Léopold Sédar Senghor as a land of plenty in his poem Le Kaya Magan). From the 3rd century AD, gathered in the region of Sahel, on the edge of the Sahara desert, the Soninko ruled over their kingdom and its capital Kumbi Saleh. According to folklore, they were blessed with abundant rain and nuggets of gold could be picked directly from the ground.

They owed this prosperity to a providential but cruel protector: the Wagadu Biida, a seven-headed serpent who lived at the bottom of the Kumbi well. Every year, as a reward for his favours, the Biida demanded an offering: the life of the most beautiful virgin woman in the community. Sacrifices took place for generations, until the 13th century AD, when fate chose Siya Yatabéré, Maamadi Sehedunxote's sweetheart.

When the dreadful day came, no one seemed surprised to find the young man armed on his stallion, facing the beast’s lair alongside Siya Yatabéré. The Biida always came out of the well three times before taking his victim. And so it went, until the third apparition when the sky darkened, the thunder rumbled and the wind blew. Maamadi charged at the Biida and cut off its head with his sword. In turn, six other heads appeared and were immediately cut off, each landing on what would become the sites of West Africa’s seven great gold mines. From the seventh severed head arose a curse: "With my end begins a period of calamity for you and your people. For seven years, seven months and seven days, not a drop of water will fall on Wagadu and your gold will turn to dust". According to oral tradition, the murder of Biida symbolises the ethinc group's abandonment of ancestor worship and adoption of Islam.

With the realm in its death throes, the dispersion of the Soninko became inevitable. Nomads at heart, always wanting to go beyond their borders, they first criss-crossed the sub-region or Central Africa (the two Congos), then kept on moving from one area to another in West Africa (mainly Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau), not only to trade and farm, but also to reach out to others, gather knowledge and gain autonomy...

Centuries later in 1977, Gaye Mody Camara, a young Soninke raised in Mali's Kayes region, settled in France to found his own empire. Initially selling wax, kola nuts and other goods in his Parisian outlets, he rapidly started distributing cassette tapes and eventually producing a multitude of recordings for his own label: Camara Production.

Crossing paths and collaborating over the next four decades with legendary artists, griots and industry moguls like Boncana Maïga, Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Ganda Fadiga, Diaby Doua or Ibrahima Sylla, Camara became one of the great independent music producers of his generation, and a pilar of the Parisian Soninke diaspora.

Released in close collaboration with Gaye Camara and with the assistance of Daouda N'diaye, one of A.P.S' (Association pour la Promotion de la langue et de la culture Soninké) historical members, this selection of songs and accompanying notes aim to shed a light on an intricate culture and its modern music, unjustifiably unknown outside of West Africa and the various diasporas around the world.

Originally released on cassettes or digitally, we have given the utmost attention to bringing this music to a new format. It has been carefully remastered and pressed on heavyweight vinyl.

The release of this compilation coincides with a huge victory achieved by the A.P.S in october 2023: the proclamation by UNESCO of an international day of the Soninke language on September 25th.




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