Posts Tagged ‘bassekou kouyate’

The 50 Greatest World Music Albums of the Last Five Years (Part 2)

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton choose their favourite albums from 2013…


Oana Cătălina Chiţu


(Asphalt Tango)

A real treat this one to mark the centenary of Maria Tănase (1913-1963), the Romanian Edith Piaf. Chiţu brings these songs alive with an excellent ensemble of violin, accordion, sax, guitar, cimbalom and bass. The songs are nostalgic and romantic and given a dark, Oriental tone by Chiţu’s chiaroscuro alto voice. There’s a tasty Romanian tango in ‘Habar N-ai Tu’ and the way she draws out the introduction to ‘Aseară Ti-am Luat Basma’ surrounded by filigree cimbalom flourishes is gorgeous. SB



Family Atlantica

Family Atlantica


This band is a product of the fertile, multicultural metropolis that is London. The charismatic vocalist, Luzmira Zerpa, is Venezuelan and the other key members are London-born Jack Yglesias and Nigerian/Ghanaian percussionist Kwame Crentsil. Not surprisingly Family Atlantica’s self-titled debut follows an ida y vuelta between Africa, South America, the Caribbean and Europe – with some spectacular percussion at its core. Guest artists include Senegalese Gnawa Nuru Kane and the wonderful Mulatu Astatke, who Yglesias got to know as a member of Ethiopian band The Heliocentrics. A life-affirming debut. SB



Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita

Clychau Dibon

(Astar Artes)

This isn’t the first kora collaboration to be featured in our Best of the Year list but it’s certainly the first to include the harp. Classically trained Welsh harpist Catrin Finch has joined forces with Seckou Keita, Senegalese UK-based kora player, and they’ve produced an album of real beauty. The album’s title sounds like it could be either Welsh or Wolof, in fact clychau is Welsh for ‘bells’ and dibon is a West African hornbill, but also the second bass string on a kora. There’s a wonderful symmetry to this music – at times it’s hard to distinguish between the two instruments, held in such high esteem in their respective cultures. This is an album of real class. JF




Jupiter Okwess International

Hotel Univers

(Out Here Records)

Lead singer Jupiter Bokondji was the subject of a French documentary called Jupiter’s Dance back in 2006, so this international debut has been long anticipated. Jupiter has the swagger and looks of a bona fide rock star yet at the same time there’s an ageless wisdom to his expression. The album is a hard-hitting critique about the Congo’s history of colonisation, independence, dependence and corruption – Jupiter feels his country is still at war because of the avarice of its people. Despite the serious nature of the songs, there’s a raw energy to this edgy and funky music, and live, this band simply rock. JF



Çiğdem Aslan


(Asphalt Tango)

This is London-based Aslan’s debut disc. She is a lioness of Greek and Turkish rebetika, and focuses on the smyrneika style from Smyrna (now known as Izmir) that was shared by Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. Alongside Aslan’s idiomatic vocals, there are excellent instrumental contributions from Nikolaos Baimpas on kanun, Pavlos Carvalho on bouzouki, and Meg Hamilton on violin.




La Noche Más Larga


A sumptuous, emotionally charged set of songs from Concha Buika, a flamenco singer from Mallorca who has turned more towards jazz for this highly polished release recorded in Miami. Buika’s live performances can at times be unnerving with her no holds barred approach on stage. But she’s pulled out all the stops in the studio and her voice sounds better than ever. 




Kayhan Kalhor & Erdal Erzincan

Kula Kulluk Yakısır Mı


The only drawback with this album is the hard-to-remember title (if you don’t speak Turkish). It’s a folksong, which translates as ‘how unseemly it is to follow anyone slavishly,’ advice that both of these master musicians have always taken to heart. This is a largely improvisational duo performance by Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish saz player Erdal Erzincan. The two musicians create a tapestry that unfolds organically over an hour with moods ranging from introspection to elation. It was recorded live in Turkey and the contrasting textures of bowed and plucked strings sparkle brilliantly off each other. SB



Bassekou Kouyaté

Jama Ko

(Out Here Records)

This recording demonstrates exactly what puts Mali at the top of the African music charts. Jama Ko is a fiercely contemporary album produced by Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire), though it is rooted in the nimble, yet rough-edged sound of the ngoni, the desert lute that goes back centuries. The extremely catchy title-track is a call for unity and peace, while ‘Kele Magni’ features the magnificent Khaira Arby from Timbuktu, under Islamist control when the album was recorded. ‘Sinaly’, with Kasse Mady Diabaté, refers to a historical Malian king resisting radical Islam. Powerful content and a thrilling sound. SB See also: Top 25 Mali Albums



Leyla McCalla

Vari-Colored Songs

(Dixie Frog)

This is the debut solo release from the newest member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Born in New York to Haitian parents, McCalla grew up reading the works of American poet and social activist Langston Hughes and in tribute, has set some of his poems to music. In addition to these poem-songs are some beautiful a capella Haitian-Creole songs. Besides her beguilingly languid singing style, McCalla is an impressive cellist and plays a mean banjo too. An album steeped in the Caribbean and Haitian roots of America’s South. JF



Rokia Traoré

Beautiful Africa


Ever the innovator, Rokia has, for her latest album, hooked up with producer John Parish who is best known for his work with PJ Harvey. Perhaps it’s his influence as Beautiful Africa is certainly a rockier affair – but still innately Malian, with some fabulous ngoni from Mamah Diabaté, and some feisty female backing vocals. You really get a sense that Rokia has a determined intention of getting her message across, whether singing in Bambara, French or English. Standout tracks include ‘Mélancholie’ and the title-track. Another class act from Mali’s first lady of song. JF See also: Top 25 Mali Albums



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Album Review | Top of the World | Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni ba – Ba Power

Posted on May 8th, 2015 in Recent posts, Reviews by .



By Nigel Williamson

Bassekou-BaPower-2400Afro-banjo innovator rocks out but stays trad

Over the last few years, Bassekou Kouyaté has revolutionised the gutbucket sound of the ancient West African banjo known as the ngoni, adding electric pickups, distortion and effects pedals to its funky, snapping strings. Yet despite such innovations, his first two albums, Segu Blue and I Speak Fula, were still essentially traditional African records, albeit of an impressively adventurous stripe. His third album, 2013’s Jama Ko rocked harder with a full-throttle roar, a conscious intensification driven by a new, younger band that included two of his sons.

Ba Power takes the integration of African tribal rhythms and Western rock’n’roll a step further. In part, that’s down to a number of non-African collaborators, including Dave Smith, drummer with Robert Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters, lead guitarist Chris Brokaw and producer Chris Eckman. Their presence lends an undoubted rock’n’roll swagger; although thankfully they manage to augment Bassekou’s Afro-rock vision rather than adulterate it.

Opener ‘Siran Fen’ establishes the template, as Bassekou’s amplified ngoni duels with the lead guitar over a propulsive rhythm and call-and-response vocals led by the intense, keening voice of Bassekou’s wife, Ami Sacko. ‘Aye Sira Bla’ ventures into Afro-prog territory with the assistance of trumpet and keyboards by Jon Hassell. ‘Fama Magni’ is a traditional African melody, featuring haunting single-string fiddle and dramatic rock guitars, while on the pulsating ‘Waati’, Bassekou’s ngoni spills shards of distorted notes over a razor-sharp riff that builds to a hypnotic climax. A landmark album.

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Bassekou Kouyaté debuts new video ‘Siran Fen’

Posted on March 27th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .


Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni ba have released the video for ‘Siran Fen’, the first single to be taken from forthcoming album Ba Power

Recorded and produced in Mali by Chris Eckman of Glitterbeat RecordsBa Power is Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni ba’s fourth studio album, and the first to be released on the German label. Guests musicians include Samba Touré, Zoumana Tereta and Adama Yalomba from Mali. Ba Power is the follow-up to the Songlines Music Awards 2014 winning and critically acclaimed album, Jama Ko.

The album launch show takes place at London’s Scala on May 31. Tickets can be purchased here. Bassekou will also be playing at Wychwood Festival on May 30.

Ba Power will be reviewed in the June 2015 (#108) edition, on sale from May 1.

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Celebrating the life of Charlie Gillett

Posted on March 17th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .


Photography by Jeremy Llewellyn-Jones

Five years ago today, radio presenter and author Charlie Gillett passed away following a long illness. In the June 2010 edition (#68) we celebrated the life of ‘Mr World Music’, with contributions from colleagues and musicians. We also included a selection of five of Charlie’s favourite tracks that were included on the free covermount CD. You can stream this playlist at the bottom of the page.

Purchase the edition here in order to read the full article.

It might be an exaggeration to describe the death of Charlie Gillett as world music’s ‘Princess Diana moment.’ But the overwhelming combination of sadness, warmth and affection that greeted the news in March 2010 of his demise at the age of 68 suggests not by much.

The simple facts of his career hardly begin to tell the story. His book, The Sound of the City (1970), was one of the earliest attempts at a serious survey of rock’n’roll history. His ‘Honky Tonk’ show on BBC Radio London in the 70s gave first airplay to such unsigned acts as Dire Straits and Elvis Costello. He managed Ian Dury for a time and ran his own label, Oval Records.

As he became increasingly disillusioned with mainstream rock in the 80s, he rediscovered the excitement that had first fuelled his youthful love of rock’n’roll in world music. Via his various radio shows he introduced us to Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Mariza and hundreds of others. In the years before his death, his reach became global via the internet and his work for the BBC World Service.

Songlines asked some of those who worked with him and knew him best to share their memories of the man Mariza simply describes as “Mr World Music.”

Words by Nigel Williamson

Ivan Duran
Stonetree Records, Belize
“Charlie had been coming to Belize around Christmas for several years and he picked up a couple of our CDs. I got an email from him saying he was playing our music on the radio and the following year we met at WOMEX. It was like we had always known each other; I’m sure a lot of artists and producers felt the same way around him. He encouraged me at every opportunity and on his last trip to Belize in 2004, walking on the beach, I asked him what he thought of the Andy Palacio tracks I’d sent him. “I wasn’t impressed,” he said, and started talking about something else. I was devastated and spent another year on the arrangements. Those tracks became Wátina [reviewed in #43], and Charlie was one of the album’s biggest supporters. The album won awards and it was that moment walking on the beach that changed everything. Today I’m a better music producer because of him and he’ll always be with me when I’m in the studio.”

Fado singer
“One cannot explain friendship but I feel I’ve lost a very special friend. I think we all did – even those who didn’t know him. Meeting Charlie was one of the great privileges life has given me. ‘Mr World Music,’ I like to call him! The world of music is poorer and I feel poorer. Thank you for everything you offered us without asking for anything in return. Thank you for your friendship. It will never be forgotten. A big kiss to you Charlie Gillett.”


Joe Boyd
Producer & writer
“There’s never been a career in the music business like Charlie Gillett’s. I first encountered him as a music publisher with a small record label in the 70s. He was clever and charming as an entrepreneur and brought those qualities to the radio. His endless curiosity introduced me to so many now revered recordings and artists, that I forgave him his dislike of English folk music. Many of us imagine releasing CDs of our favourite tracks; Charlie did it every year. His output was monumental; how do you do that and never make any enemies? Adoring Charlie went without saying. Now it’s time to say it. We will all miss him terribly.”

Bassekou Kouyaté
Malian ngoni player
“I played on his radio show and I felt he loved me like a brother. The day I won the BBC Radio 3 award for world music, I went on his show and he said, ‘You deserve this! You’ve worked hard!’ He was so happy, he was crying, so I had to hug him to calm him down. I feel I’ve lost a brother.”


Alan Finkel
Radio colleague
“To be part of his radio programmes was a joy. It was impossible not to be affected by his honesty, integrity, sense of humour, spontaneity, intelligence, kindness, wisdom, warmth and humility. For two hours on Saturday night on BBC Radio London, Charlie would set the barrier impossibly high. Often there were two live sets. It felt like Charlie’s party but the listeners felt part of it too. Despite having a clear sense of what he liked to play, Charlie would allow his guests to choose their own tracks with no prior discussion. I couldn’t imagine another DJ giving up so much precious airtime. Sometimes he’d wince at their choices but at other times an unexpected listening treat would send him diving into his box to find something appropriate to follow. Nothing was predictable. Often he’d change his choice of record 20 seconds before the previously track ended. I’d desperately try to keep up, so everything could be logged. A truly wonderful broadcaster, completely at ease with live radio.”

Yasmin Levy
Israeli Sephardic singer
“Imagine an old town. In the centre of it, an open market, filled with people, stalls of fruit and vegetables, spices, fish… just another day. Suddenly, a bell rings out and everyone stops, looking for the sound. Along comes a young man, riding his bicycle, trailing a carriage behind it. He shouts: ‘All aboard, all aboard, you’re all welcome to join me on a magical journey!’
I came from Jerusalem as a scared, young woman with a dream. It was a big day for me. I was invited to a programme on the BBC with Charlie Gillett. I remember singing into the microphone. Charlie sat there with his eyes closed, listening to me sing and I waited, looking for his response as I held my breath in hope. Since that day, Charlie accompanied me throughout my career. He was one of the first who believed in me, and he introduced my music to the world. On that day in the market, many people came aboard and joined that young man’s journey. He introduced them to all kinds of music, asking them to open their hearts and listen. “What’s your name, young man?” asked one of them. “I’m Charlie Gillett,” he replied. “Welcome aboard.”


Youssou N’Dour
Senegalese singer
“Charlie was the first to play my music on English radio and two days before he died I was thinking about him and wondering what he would make of my new album. I so wanted him to hear it. Then I woke up to the bad news and sadly realised he never would.”

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