Posts Tagged ‘mali’

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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‘Timbuktu’ soundtrack featuring Fatoumata Diawara & Amine Bouhafa

Posted on May 1st, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .


Composed by Fatoumata Diawara & Amine Bouhafa, ‘Timbuktu Fasso’ features on the soundtrack to Abderrahmane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated Timbuktu

In the new issue (June #108) Yoram Allon speaks to the Mauritanian filmmaker about the place of music in the film (below is an extract from the issue feature).

Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Academy Awards and the recipient of numerous international accolades, Timbuktu presents a place ruled by religion, and a people traumatised by division.

In the film’s most heart-breaking scene, Fatoumata Diawara, an accomplished actress in her own right, plays an intensely powerful cameo as ‘la chanteuse’, a local young woman who is publicly flogged after being caught during an innocent evening with friend simply singing and playing music.

The music in Timbuktu is not exclusively Malian, or even West African, in origin, but is added to by sounds from Arabic-influenced North Africa and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Sissako explains that a certain amount of commercial necessity lay in these decisions. “Although this is clearly a specifically Malian story, we needed to find ways of connecting with a wider international audience so that it could travel and be seen as a more universal cautionary, tragic tale.”

Timbuktu is released by Artificial Eye on May 29. Read our review and feature in the new issue.

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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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Album Review | Top Of The World | Boubacar Traoré – Mbalimaou

Posted on February 23rd, 2015 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


762052_BoubacarTraore_albumWords by Jon Lusk

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.

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