Words by Martin Sinnock
The BKO Quintet consist of four Malians and one French musician; they play traditional Malian music with a modern twist. Uniquely they pair two traditional Malian instruments: the djelingoni and donsongoni – the guitar of the griots and the kora-like harp-lute of the Bamana hunters. While the roots of the music lie in folklore, there is an electric urban edge that firmly places it into similar psychedelic realms to Zani Diabaté’s Super Djata Band. The traditional instruments are backed by the djembé drum of master drummer Ibrahima Sarr and French percussionist Aymeric Krol, who plays a hybrid drum kit – a mixture of traditional and modern drums. What appears to be a small acoustic group creates a remarkably full sound and in Nfaly Diakité and Fassara Sacko they have two very powerful and emotive lead vocalists.
While the album stands alone as a great release, the accompanying DVD BKO on Air is a beautifully filmed diary-style documentary of the group as they travel through Mali during an official state of emergency: they are captured chatting on a radio broadcast in Bamako; rehearsing in the recording studio; and playing live in Mali and France. It’s a tremendous insight into how the group creates its music: how it takes influences from different Malian cultures, and adds contemporary references.