We’re delighted to announce the winners of the sixth annual Songlines Music Awards. From over 600 albums to a shortlist of 16, here are the four outstanding winnings artists selected by the Songlines editorial team.
Drum roll please…
Best Artist – Bassekou Kouyaté
For Jama Ko on Out Here
“I am apolitical,” Bassekou told Songlines in #89. But this, his last album, became political because it was recorded during the Malian coup in March 2012 that overthrew president Amadou Toumani Touré. The title-track urges people to come together and unite, while another song, ‘Sinaly’, is about Sinaly Diarra opposing forced Islamisation in the 19th century. The apolitical Bassekou ended up making an album that became very political.
The urgency and integrity of the message make the music strong and the quality is audible even to those of us who don’t understand the words. The music of Jama Ko is full of glorious instrumental virtuosity and vocal prowess (thanks to Bassekou’s wife, Amy Sacko) – all traits that make Mali stand out as a musical powerhouse.
Bassekou has long been the man to call when you need a shit-hot ngoni solo, but it was Africa Express in 2006 and his 2007 album Segu Blue, with his pioneering group Ngoni ba, that first put him on the map. He’s now a regal figure, but not a political one, on stages around the world.
Best Group – Tamikrest
For Chatma on Glitterbeat
There are two artists from Mali amongst this year’s award winners – and it’s perhaps fitting that one is from the Bamana culture of the south and one from the Touareg culture of the north. Tamikrest are currently living outside Mali in southern Algeria and their most recent album, Chatma, which means ‘Sisters’ in Tamashek, is about the women who suffer during war – see our feature in #96.
Led by frontman Ousmane Ag Mossa, Tamikrest are from Kidal, also home to Tinariwen. They formed in 2006, but became internationally known after meeting the indie band Dirtmusic at the Festival in the Desert and recording on their 2010 album BKO and releasing their debut album Adagh, produced by Dirtmusic’s Chris Eckman. Chatma, their powerful third album featuring female vocalist Wonou Walet Sidati, was a Top of the World, with Nigel Williamson praising their psych-guitar effects and Pink Floyd-style sonic montage: ‘All credit, then, to Tamikrest – who are a generation younger than the original Touareg war vets – for taking the sound in brave and brilliant new directions.’
Cross-Cultural Collaboration – Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita
For Clychau Dibon on Astar Artes
There’s something deeply gratifying about this whole collaboration – the pairing of the West African kora with the Welsh harp. There’s the actual physical object: a CD bound like a chunky book, replete with insightful notes and its beautiful front cover image. Then there’s the intriguing story behind how the two came together to record this album – a series of initially unfortunate circumstances, which turned into this most serendipitous meeting of musical talents – you can read more about this in #102. The first impression is what an unlikely combination of two completely different cultures this is. But when you hear the inextricably cascading notes, you realise that there are fascinating similarities that connect these two instruments.
This accolade isn’t their first – the album won fRoots 2013 Album of the Year and was nominated in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. And on evidence of the interest they piqued at their extraordinary showcase at WOMEX – so jammed-packed most people could only see the very tips of the instruments – I wager there will be many more plaudits to come.
Newcomer – Family Atlantica
For Family Atlantica on Soundway Records
It was four years in the making, but the debut by London’s Family Atlantica was well worth the wait. A band that could only have formed in the multicultural mecca of London, Family Atlantica are fronted by the Venezuelan vocal powerhouse Luzmira Zerpa, London-born percussionist Jack Yglesias, and Nigerian/Ghanaian percussionist Kwame Crentsil. Together, their fusion explores the wealth of music on either side of the Atlantic. Zerpa’s rich and expressive voice, underpinned by intoxicating rhythms, delves into stories from Africa and the Americas with unparalleled joy and enthusiasm, uniting the music of the African diaspora. Succinctly summarising their ethos, Yglesias told Songlines, ‘music unites people, it builds a bridge between individuals across the Atlantic.’ And that is exactly what Family Atlantica have managed to do, creating an album of passionate, joyous music that is thoroughly enlightened by a rich history of peoples, but at the same time, very much a contemporary sound.
Watch our brand new Songlines Music Awards 2014 winners video below, featuring a performance from each winner.