Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta

Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta (Numero Group)

Contact Jacob Daneman about Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta

Bordered by the former French territories of Niger, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin, the landlocked nation of Burkina Faso has been the site of near-constant tribal, colonial, and political unrest for centuries. During a spell of tranquility in the ’60s and ’70s, the arid savannah then known as Upper Volta became fertile grounds for innovations in music, fashion, and entrepreneurship.


From his studio in central Bobo-Dioulasso, photographer Sory Sanlé documented his nation’s transformation from colonial foothold to cosmopolitan oasis. “Each weekend, life was beautiful,” Sanlé recounts today. “Every Saturday night, everyone was excited to go see his or her dance partner. People would dance, take a break, get their picture taken, and go back to dancing. It’s an atmosphere that isn’t expensive, and life isn’t complicated. Automatically there was a photographer, because you had to have memories of it, and I was there as the photographer.”


Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta provides an intimate look into the region’s pop culture explosion of the 1970s. This hardbound monograph features over 100 stunning images of community elders and emboldened youth, spilling from the brightly lit confines of Sanlé’s Volta Photo into the dimly lit nightclubs of Upper Volta’s cultural capital. Spread over three discs, the box set features dozens of rare and evocative recordings by Bobo-Dioulasso’s musical titans: Volta Jazz, Dafra Star, Echo Del Africa, and Les Imbattables Léopards. Coupled with insightful interviews and extensive liner notes, Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta is a brilliant overview of Bobo-Dioulasso’s spirited renaissance.