“Jama ko” means ‘a big gathering of people’. It is a call for unity, peace and tolerance in a time of crisis in Mali.
“Jama ko is for everyone”, says Bassekou Kouyate. “There are over 90% Muslims in Mali, but our form of Islam here has nothing to do with a radical form of Sharia: that is not our culture. We have been singing praise songs for the Prophet for hundreds of years. If the Islamists stop people music making they will rip the heart out of Mali.”
The recording of Jama ko took place in March 2012 in Mali’s capital Bamako. It was recorded with a completely new line-up including Bassekou’s two sons Madou and Moustafa Kouyate, ngoni master Abou Sissoko and a number of other young skilled musicians from Bamako.It became political by accident. In the afternoon of the first day in the studio the military overthrew the president Amadou Toumani Toure. It was a shock for Bassekou as the former president was a great supporter of his music. Somewhere between power cuts, fuel shortages and the uncertainty of daily curfews the recording went on. In the meantime, the situation in the north of Mali was getting worse and worse by the day. In the studio a musical answer started taking shape: Instead of keeping quiet, Bassekou plugged in his wah wah pedal, cranked up his amp and let loose: “don’t wear me out.”
Kasse Mady Diabate is featured on the Latin-flavored “Sinaly” singing about Sinaly Diarra, a Bamana king famous for resisting forced Islamisation in the 19th century. “Kele Magni” is a duet between Bassekou’s wife and the group’s main vocalist Amy Sacko and Khaira Arby from Timbuktu, calling for peace in Mali.
Zoumana Tereta praises the cotton farmers of Mali in “Mali Koori” with a voice that takes you back into the time of the great Bambara warriors. Jama ko also features an incredible duet between Bassekou and American blues musician Taj Mahal (vocals / electric guitar) and ends with the moving song, “Moustafa”, by Bassekou’s son Moustafa dedicated to his parents thanking them for all they have done for him.
Renowned engineer Howard Bilerman recorded the album in Mali and ended up mixing and co-producing most of it back home in Montreal. Andrew Barr and Brad Barr (Barr Brothers) added drums and guitar. Mocky Salole (Feist, Jamie Lidell) came up with some additional arrangements and played organ and drums.
Bassekou Kouyate released a celebrated debut album titled Segu Blue followed by the Grammy nominated follow-up I Speak Fula. He has performed hundreds of concerts all over the globe. He had an appearance headlining the AfroCubism project and, just a few months ago, spectacular appearances at the latest Africa Express events performing with Paul McCartney, Damon Albarn and many others.
Buy the Jama ko CD or downloads in Europe
Preorder MP3s in North America: Jama ko