Various Artists – Every Song Has its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali | Album Review | Top of the World
Words by Nigel Williamson
A picture from Mali
Over the last few years the Bamako-based producer Paul Chandler has travelled across Mali making field recordings of traditional musicians in villages and dusty crossroad towns. These dozen tracks come from his archive and present a fascinating picture of music played in a traditional context for ritual, ceremony or simply to accompany the chores of daily village life. The range of styles is impressively diverse.
There are haunting ululations from the female singers of Group Ekanzam (featured on the covermount CD); a spiritual evocation of the djinns by Group Tagout; spiky Songhai drones from Super Onze; and a declamatory hunter’s praise song played on the simbi (hunter’s harp) by Sidiki Coulibaly (pictured above). Not forgetting the haunting Bamana singing of Bina Koumaré and Madou Diabaté, and the balafon pyrotechnics of Kassoun Bagayoko. It’s music full of otherness, offering a rare window into an ancient way of life that few of us can fully comprehend, although our contextual understanding is aided by a second disc featuring video footage of the performers. It’s reassuring that Malian traditional music continues to exist in so many guises, unmediated for commercial purposes. But for how much longer, one can only guess…