Words by Martin Sinnock
There’s always room for one more Malian bluesman
Here’s a second album from Mamadou Kelly, a guitarist and singer from the Malian area of Goundam and Niafunke – a place known for exceptional musicians that excel in the popular Malian blues style. Guitar accompanied by the plucked monochord djourkel (sounding similar to the ngoni) and backed by calabash percussion and bass guitar. This seemingly simple, stripped-down musical line-up was recorded in New York State – the simplicity enhanced by some keyboard, electric guitar, and on one track a cello.
Kelly and his band, Ban Kai Na, are musical colleagues of Ali Farka Touré and Afel Bocoum, and they perform with the same deep and stirring musical passion. Clearly another one of Mali’s recent crop of incredibly accomplished guitarists, Kelly is also a fine singer, although the real vocal joy comes when his voice combines with that of guest singer Leila Gobi, a prominent chanteuse from Menaka in northern Mali. She sings on three tracks and her high-pitched, wailing counterpoint is totally hypnotic. The profoundly moving music on this CD is all the more poignant for having been recorded at a time of political chaos and terrible social violence back home in Mali.