Words by Nigel Williamson
The death of Lobi Traoré in 2010 at the age of 49 deprived the Malian music scene of a blues guitarist whose streetwise, rootsy playing was one of the glories of Bamako’s after-hours nightlife. If his studio recordings never quite captured his kinetic energy, these live recordings made in a city nightclub shortly before his death are the real deal. The opener ‘Makono’ showcases not only Lobi’s keening voice but his brilliant backing band, who lock into a simmering groove that creates the perfect sound-bed for his fulgent, improvised solos. The fuzzbox of ‘Banan Ni’ suggests the influence of Jimi Hendrix. The loping ‘Saya’ is a more traditional slice of pentatonic Bambara blues, before the tempo picks up again, setting the pulse racing, on ‘Mali Ba’. Then there’s ‘Maya Gasi Ka Bon’, a slow-burning, nine-minute tour de force in which his soloing builds to incendiary proportions.
Overall, the album could be criticised for a few imperfections and indulgences that untampered live recordings often betray. But that’s hardly a problem: a small, sweaty club with strings going out of tune was always the best environment in which to experience Lobi’s unique magic.
TRACK TO TRY: Makono