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Pierre Akendengue is one of the most outstanding African artists — a musician, poet, philosopher, and visionary. His influence on African music is immense; in this sense, he is easily comparable to Francis Bebey or Youssou N'Dour. In his native Gabon, he is considered to be a musical genius, in the francophone world, he is at least reasonably well-known, but outside this diaspora his work has remained almost unnoticed and many of his recordings are not easily available — most of them one has to hunt down. This is a shame, as — like Bebey and N'Dour — he was already active when the term "world music" was not even coined yet, and the work of this innovator belongs on the shelves of the timeless and great music of our era and should therefore be widely known. Akendengue started composing as a child, and when he was a teenager, his songs were already broadcasted on Gabonese radio stations. When he was in his twenties he came to France to study literature and psychology. During this time he was confronted with quickly deteriorating eyesight which eventually led to his blindness. After his studies in Orléans, Caen, and Paris, he shortly returned to Gabon, but due to his critical attitude towards the Gabonese government, he was forced into exile to France in the beginning of the '70s. In 1974 he released his debut Nandipo, which solidly established his reputation as a witty songwriter with philosophical depth. 1976's Afrika Obota even topped the success of his debut in earning him an MIDEM award for Best Francophone Songs. Since then, he has released a steady stream of excellent recordings: His third album, Eseringuila, released in 1978, won him the Maraccas d'Or award as Best African Record in 1979. 1985 saw him settling again in Gabon. His 1986 release Piroguier is considered to be a classic of African music. In the '90s, Akendengue embarked on much more adventurous shores; together with French composer and producer Hughes de Courson he released Lambarena, an experiment in merging the music of German baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach with African traditional music. With his releases Maladalité (1995) and Carrefour Rio (1997), Akendengue returned to more conventional terrain and proved once again his reputation as a master of sophisticated, multilayered theatrical songwriting.
1944 op Port Gentil, Gabon
'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s