Smod (Nacional Records, 2011)
Malian group Smod’s debut album, Smod, has attracted a lot of media attention because of the involvement of Franco-Spanish star Manu Chao, who produced the album. Although Smod are Malian, they have very little to do with the Malian blues scene that many world music fans love. Instead, Smod focuses on various musical forms. They show great promise and talent in the African and Jamaican flavored pieces. Other genres featured include French pop and hip hop destined for the local and French market.
Occasionally, Smod show bits of creative vocal harmonies that go beyond the restrictive format of hip hop. This is most visible in pieces like ‘Dakan.’
Smod originally connected with Manu Chao through band member Sam, who is the son of world music stars Amadou & Mariam. Manu Chao had produced Amadou & Mariam’s popular album, ‘Dimanche a Bamako.’
Sam, Mouzy and Ousco met in the streets of Bamako in 2000. Between them, their lust for different types of music – including rap and traditional Malian music, and their desire to give their perspective on the state of affairs and history of the African continent, Smod was born.
The group hung out in Faladié, one of Bamako’s most happening neighborhoods, with its immense market and inexhaustible street-level energy. “We used to organize these little free flow jousts between the rappers,” Ousco explains. “There was always a rap showdown or a dance showdown happening somewhere, and we took part.”
Smod found a space to rehearse in the house of Sam’s parents, who happened to be the world famous blind Malian couple Amadou & Mariam. “We got together there every evening, in ‘seventh heaven’, on my parents’ roof,” Sam recounts. “That terrace has always been our place of creation, of inspiration.”
Smod got to know Manu Chao up on the roof. He was in Bamako in 2005 to record the hit album ‘Dimanche à Bamako’ with Sam’s famous parents. One evening, when most of the household were already in bed, Sam found Manu strumming his guitar down in the house, so he invited him up. Manu was charmed by these three hard-working dreamers, with their radical lyrics that reminded him so much of his own.
Manu Chao came back six months later and recorded Smod with his little portable studio, up on their roof, or down in the house. His credo was, “You don’t mess with what happens on the terrace.”
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