Posts Tagged ‘mali’
Old friends and new lend the great guitarist a hand
The first album in four years from this much-loved Malian singer and guitarist finds him on fairly familiar ground, but still making music that has the power to engage. And with a surprise or two up his sleeves. For the past few years, he’s been working with harmonica player Vincent Bucher, who makes the connection between the blues and Malian music more explicit than ever with his skilfully nuanced blowing on ‘Sagnon Moni’. On ‘Bembalisso’, ‘Saya Temokoto’, ‘Africa’ and the title-track, percussionist Babah Kone ably helps the maestro put a spring in his step. The other key collaborators are ngoni player Oumar Barou and kora player Ballaké Sissoko, who co-produces with Christian Mousset.
Soumaila Diabaté makes ‘Mbalimaou’ a definite highlight, with his deft bowing of the rustic sokou (one-stringed fiddle). Bucher’s blues harp seems slightly superfluous on the new interpretation of ‘Mariama’, which isn’t as haunting as the iconic version on Boubacar’s wonderful 1990 debut for Stern’s. But overall, this is a solid new album.
Photography by Simon Broughton and Fanta Diarra
Simon Broughton joins a crowd of 25,000 to enjoy the Festival on the Niger in Segou, Mali
Surprisingly Fatoumata Diawara’s (pictured) appearance on Saturday at the Festival on the Niger was her first solo performance in Mali. Before the show she was nervous that, as she lives in France, people wouldn’t know her music and might not like it. She needn’t have worried. Fatoumata is elegant and dynamic on stage, spinning like a dervish towards the end of her set.
With an audience of over 25,000 people, the Festival on the Niger is the biggest music festival in West Africa. The main stage is actually a pontoon on the Niger itself and the audience is packed on the bank. This year’s festival included several Songlines Music Award winners: Fatoumata Diawara, Amadou & Mariam, and Bassekou Kouyaté, playing in his home town. Concluding the festival was Oumou Sangare with Fatoumata back on stage as one of the calabash-tossing backing singers. Oumou is a huge star in Mali and kept a packed crowd, who knew all her songs, partying till 4am.
As well as the thrill of seeing the big names on their home turf – or river – I was pleased to discover Safi Diabaté, a magnificent singer married to Toumani’s brother Mamdou, who played sublime kora flourishes around her vocals. I was hugely impressed by the Ensemble Regional de Segou, a venerable traditional group of 20 musicians including koras, balafon and drums (pictured above). A group like this wouldn’t be able to tour so can only be here. And I was surprised to find myself enjoying Penzy (pronounced Benji), a rapper who has kora, tama (talking drum) and dancing girls on stage.
Segou is a pleasant, leafy city of about half a million people. It’s become a centre of arts and crafts, partly thanks to the festival, now in its 11th year. “The purpose of the festival is to create social, economic and cultural development in Segou,” says festival director Mamou Daffe. There’s now an excellent recording studio – Studio Kôrè – with recordings in progress while I was there.
Segou is a relaxing and fascinating place to visit. In a pirogue or pinnase you can access villages inhabited by Bozo fishermen, pottery makers and Segou Koro (Old Segou) where there are wonderful mud-brick mosques dating back to when it was the centre of the Bamana Empire from 1640. The official FCO travel advice is still against “all but essential travel” in southern Mali (including Segou). But they admit they have to err on the over-cautious and admit that if you don’t do anything stupid it’s perfectly safe.
The Festival on the Niger also played host to the Festival of the Desert in Exile and its Cultural Caravan for Peace. The Caravan began in Southern Morocco at the Taragalte Festival in M’Hamid, the gateway to the Sahara. Then there were concerts in Segou and three other places in Mali and it will culminate in two big concerts in Bamako, the Malian capital, on February 20 and 21.
The highlight of the Caravan concert was as band called Malikanw (Voices of Mali), put together by Manny Ansar of the Festival in the Desert. It features prominent musicians from six of Mali’s ethnic groups from Kayes to Kidal. Best known is probably singer and guitarist Samba Touré (who is Songhai) and the group also includes guitarist Ahmed Ag Kaedi (Touareg), guitarist Petit Gouro (Dogon), singer Sadio Sidibé (Fulani), fiddler Zoumana Tereta (Bamana) and singer Cheick Sissoko (Mande). It’s obviously a cultural statement, but musically they’re strong and would certainly be popular in Europe on tour [Pic]. They certainly went down well in Segou with ebullient dancing breaking out, once the official Minister for Reconciliation had left. “I think they are popular,” says Festival in the Desert organiser Manny Ansar, “because everyone can see themselves in this group.”
Bassekou Kouyaté’s follow-up to 2013’s critically acclaimed Jama Ko will be released on April 27
Recorded and produced in Mali by Chris Eckman of Glitterbeat Records, Ba 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, as well as US trumpet player Jon Hassell (Brian Eno, Bjork, Peter Gabriel) and drummer Dave Smith (Robert Plant, Fofoulah, Juju).
In reference to the album’s title, Bassekou explained: ‘Ba’, in Bambara means ‘strong’ or ‘great’ and it also means ‘group.’ I called the album Ba Power because I think the messages on it are very important and strong, and it is also definitely the album with the toughest sound I’ve ever made. I want these songs to grab as many people as possible.
‘Siran Fen’ is the first single from Ba Power and continues where Jama Ko left off with a thrilling, urgent mix of African blues and rock, dominated by Bassekou’s now iconic electrified ngoni tone and the soaring vocals of Ami Sacko. Listen ‘Siran Fen’ below.
The album launch show takes place at London’s Scala on May 31. Tickets can be purchased here.
The Malian trio return to the UK with their own unique take on traditional form
Made up of three musicians from leading Mande musical families, Trio da Kali only came into being in late 2012 yet have already performed at a BBC Prom and the London Jazz Festival. Directed by virtuoso balafon player Lassana Diabaté, they aim to breathe new life back into ancient griot traditions. Singer Hawa Kassé Diabaté, daughter of Kassé Mady Diabaté, is one of Mali’s finest vocalists and youngest member, son of Bassekou Kouyaté, Mamadou Kouyaté (bass ngoni) completes the group.
Presented by Making Tracks, Trio da Kali will be playing throughout the UK from February 20-March 6. Visit the Making Tracks website to find out more. For your chance to win a pair of tickets to a date of your choice click here.
Read more about the trio in the March 2015 (#106) edition, now on sale.
February 20 – Swansea, Pontardawe Arts Centre
February 21 – Cambridge, The Junction
February 22 – London, Rich Mix
February 25 – Bristol Colston Hall/The Lantern
February 26 – Manchester, RNCM
February 27 – Milton Keynes, The Stables
February 28 – Birmingham, mac
March 1 – Brighton, Brighton Dome
March 4 – Bury St Edmunds, The Apex
March 5 – York, NCEM
March 6 – Gateshead, The Sage Gateshead
Watch Trio da Kali perform with Kronos Quartet, with whom they collaborated with in early 2014.