The grand finale of the annual week-long Francophone celebration brings to Toronto two highly regarded world music acts. One of Africa’s most exciting virtuoso performers, Habib Koité is a modern griot – playing music that reflects the diverse traditions of his Malian homeland while connecting to the cosmopolitan life experience. A number of critically acclaimed albums, a duet with Bonnie Raitt, and almost 1,000 concerts for adoring audiences around the globe have earned Habib Koité and his band Bamada a spot in the top echelon of African artists.
While many African performers have chosen to try to conquer Europe and North America by incorporating western sounds into their music, and others are striving to perpetuate traditional music in a much more rigorous way, Habib Koité has adopted his own highly individual style which is both infused with the traditions of his country and very much in tune with his times.
During a career which has produced a total of three albums, Koité (descended from a long line of griots), has developed a distinctive approach to guitar playing in which the influences of his own country can be discerned, as well as other musical styles such as blues, or even occasional touches of Cuban or flamenco sounds. With his warm vocals and lush musical arrangements, his music also samples the rich range of traditional Mali instruments such as the bala, tamani and n’goni.
As the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2001 release Baro, Habib and his band Bamada released a stunning album Afriki, which means “Africa” in the Malian Bambara language, on September 25th, 2007. It features an appealing set of songs that reflect his innovative approach to the diverse styles of Malian music and is about the strengths and challenges of the African continent. “People here in Africa are willing to risk death trying to leave for Europe or the USA, but they are not willing to take that risk staying to develop something here in Africa,” says Habib.
Exploring some new musical directions, James Brown veteran Pee Wee Ellis arranged horns on the song “Africa,” which calls upon Africans to take responsibility for their own future and not depend on the outside world. Habib touches on personal subjects, as in “N’ba” (“My Mother”), an homage to his mother who passed away suddenly while he was on tour. The rousing song "Massaké" (“The King”) finds humor in the royal status of children who are treated like kings by parents that obey their every whim.
Koité has sold more than 250,000 albums around the globe, sparking an appearance on the popular television show Late Night with David Letterman.
He’s also collaborated on a duet with Bonnie Raitt for her 2002 album Silver Lining and has played nearly a thousand concerts on some of the world’s most prestigious stages.
Salaam brings jazz and funk together with Moroccan gnawa rhythms for a powerful and dynamic sound that’s grabbing much attention and captivating the ears of their fellow Montrealers.
Where: Revival, 783 College St
When: Thursday, March 26 @ 9:00 pm, Doors @ 8
Tickets: $20 advance at smallworldmusic.com / Soundscapes. 572 College St.