Sitting back and listening to the latest recording Kidal by Mali’s desert blues/rock group Tamikrest, I wondered if I would have even heard about the continuing struggles of the Tuareg and other desert peoples if it weren’t for the lush music spilling out of the Sahara by way of groups like Tamikrest and other musician groups like Terakaft, Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa or the powerful Sahrawi singer and musician Mariem Hassan. Sadly, I think few would even know that people live and travel these remote parts of the Sahara much less know about the struggle to maintain their nomadic identity if it weren’t for the music.
Fortunately for us Glitterbeat Records has got all the little music junkies out there covered with Tamikrest and their latest Kidal set for release on March 17th. Following up on previous recordings Adagh, Toumastin, Chatma and Taksera, Tamikrest again wraps up listeners in the familiar sleek guitars, rolling rhythms and meaty vocals on Kidal.
Recorded in Bamako, Mali, Kidal gets some extra special treatment with producer Mark Mulholland from Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra and mixer David Odlum who earned a Grammy for his work with the group Tinariwen. Two years in the making, Kidal is worth every single track.
Tamikrest leader Ousmane Ag Mossa says of the recording, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”
Opening with those familiar desert blues riffs on “Mawarniha Tartit,” Tamikrest lays down a sound that’s hypnotic and driven. Packed with guitar, percussion and drums, Kidal kicks some serious rock riffs. Tracks like “Manhouy Inerizhan,” “War Toyed” and “War Tila Eridaran” are brilliantly fiery, but its tracks like slower and bluesy “Atwitas” that blow the listener away with its sleek, edgy guitar, laced in kora lines and roughed over vocals.
Kidal is chocked full of goodies like the acoustic guitar led “Tanakra,” the fabulously trippy and immensely satisfying “Ehad Wad Nadorhan” and the folksy, homey “Erres Hin Atouan” with its call and response vocals. There’s also the rocking “Adoutat Salilagh” and the sweetly worked closing track “Adad Osan Itibat” to satisfy all your desert blues/rock needs.
Kidal is power to the people through music and it doesn’t get any better than that.
Kassé Mady Diabaté has one of West Africa’s greatest voices and he’s one of the most cherished singers in Mali. He is known for his profound knowledge of Mali’s deepest oral and musical traditions and the beauty of his tenor voice.
He was born in 1949 in Kela, a renowned center of the Mande jeli tradition in western Mali, near Kangaba, one of the seats of the great Mali empire (1235-1469).
Kasse Mady’s family, the Diabates of Kela -all of whom are jelis- were the singers for the emperors and their descendants, the royal Keita lineage. And still today they are considered among the most important and authoritative jeli families across seven West African countries where Mande culture predominates.
Kasse Mady is the second person ever to be given the name Kasse Mady, which means ‘Weep Mady’ (Mady is a regional variant of Mohammed). His grandfather, also from Kela, was the first.
Mady, the grandfather, had such a beautiful voice that when he sang, he would move people to tears, therefore his nickname, ‘Kasse from Kassi,’ (to weep). Kasse Mady the younger was given this name at birth to honor the grandfather. But no one in the family could imagine that his voice would have the same power and ability to move people to extreme states of emotion.
While still a young boy, Kasse Mady began singing at local weddings and other ceremonies, and around 1970 he was invited to become the lead singer of the dance orchestra of the nearby town of Kangaba. This orchestra was called the Super Mande, a name his brother Lafia Diabate, also a well-known singer, now uses for his own band of Kela musicians who are based in Bamako and who are the principal musicians on the album Kassi Kasse.
The decade of 1970s was an important period in Mali because of the new Cultural Authenticity policies that was in place in the newly independent nation states of West Africa. In Mali, as elsewhere, musicians were encouraged to return to their own folklore instead of imitating rock or Cuban music. As it happened, Kasse Mady’s special blend of traditional Mande folklore with modern instruments was to play an important role in this movement.
Every two years, the Malian government sponsored a major festival call the Biennale, in which all the regional ensembles and dance orchestras competed with each other. In 1973, it was the Super Mande from Kangaba who won, thanks to the remarkable singing of Kasse Mady.
Not long before that, a group of eight musicians who had been studying music in Cuba had returned to Mali and formed the group Las Maravillas de Mali, famous for their charanga interpretations of Cuban classics. But according to the dictates of Cultural Authenticity, they had to begin to take on more of a Malian repertoire. After hearing Kasse Mady perform at the Biennale, they decided that he was the one to do this.
The musical director was sent down to Kela, 104 kms west of Bamako down a bumpy dirt road, to find the singer. After various ritual consultations with the family, who were (and still are) very protective of their traditions, Kasse Mady was allowed to go to join the band in Bamako. Soon after, the Maravillas began enjoying a tremendous success throughout West Africa with songs like ‘Balomina Mwanga’ and ‘Maimouna,’ all sung memorably by the young Kasse Mady in Cuban style, but with a new Mande touch.
Around 1976 the band renamed themselves National Badema du Mali (meaning national family of Mali). Kasse Mady launched this new lineup with several deep Mande songs that were to become hits, such as ‘Sindiya (later re-recorded by Ali Farka Toure as ‘Singya’ on his first World Circuit album) and ‘Fode’ that was also the title of Kasse’s first solo album in 1988. Other hits were ‘Nama,’ a song Kasse Mady composed about a true story of a canoe that overturned while crossing the river Niger on September 22 in which many people drowned and ‘Guede’ that he later re-recorded with american bluesman Taj Mahal.
By the mid 1980s, there was no longer much interest among Malian audiences in the old dance bands of the 1970s. The Rail Band was playing to ever decreasing audiences, and the Ambassadeurs, formerly led by singer Salif Keita, had disbanded.
So when Kasse Mady was invited to Paris to record his first solo album for Senegalese producer Ibrahima Sylla (of Africando fame), Kasse decided to try his luck. He left the national Badema and moved to Paris, where he spent the next ten years. During this period he recorded two solo albums, Fode, an electric dance album that was meant to be the answer to Salif Keita’s Soro but did not enjoy the same promotion; and Kela Tradition, an acoustic album of Kela jeli songs, both on the Paris label Syllart.
Also in this period, Kasse Mady collaborated in the album Songhai 2 with Spanish flamenco group Ketama and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, with some stunning versions of classics such as ‘Mali Sajio,’ as well as, the beautiful ballad ‘Pozo del Deseo’ sung together with Ketama singer Antonio Carmona.
But things did not turn out as planned in Paris. Kasse Mady’s non-confrontational and peaceful character did not help him find his way through the labyrinth of royalty payments and contracts and the hard-nosed music business of Paris.
Exploited and disappointed, he returned to Bamako in 1998 where things began to look up for him. The music scene in Bamako had picked up considerably since he had left ten years before. For a start, there was now a new democratic government and a renewed interest among the youth in traditional music.
The kora player Toumani Diabate immediately recruirted Kasse Mady for more collaboration after the successful work they had done together on Songhai 2. Kasse Mady was invited to take part in the acclaimed Kulanjan project with Taj Mahal. Taj was so moved by Kasse’s singing that he presented him with a beautiful steel-body guitar and now, having heard the new album Kassi Kasse, is so entranced by it that he takes it with him everywhere he goes on his extensive concert tours.
in 2010, Kasse Mady partricipated in the landmark Afrocubism project, a spectacular collaboration of musicians from Mali and Cuba. the lineup featured Eliades Ochoa, Bassekou Kouyate, Djelimady Tounkara, Toumani Diabaté, Grupo Patria, Kasse Mady Diabaté and Lassana Diabaté.
Malian desert blues band Tinariwen has released a video advance of ‘Sastanàqqàm,’ the first single from the band’s upcoming new album, Elwan, scheduled for release released on February 10th 2017 on Wedge.
In 2014, Tinariwen stopped at Rancho de la Luna studios in the desert of California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Guitarist Matt Sweeny, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile, musician and vocalist Alan Johannes recorded sessions with the Malian band, engineered by Andrew Schepps, who has worked with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash, and Jay Z.
Two years later in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, an oasis in southern Morocco, near the Algerian frontier, Tinariwen set up their tents to record, accompanied by the local musical youth and a Ganga ensemble of Gnawa musicians.
Mali’s musical landscape is a fair bit dimmer with the death of Issa Bagayogo. The singer and musician passed away after a long illness on October 10, 2016. Mr. Bagayogo was 55.
Born in to a poor family in the small village of Korin in a section of the Bougouni Cercle, a part of the Sikasso region of Mali, Mr. Bagayogo found his way to music as a young boy by way of the daro, an iron bell struck to set the rhythm of field workers in Mali, before picking up and learning to play the kamele n’goni, a six-stringed instrument similar to an oud or guitar found in West Africa. He garnered local attention with his playing and singing local songs before heading off to Bamako in 1991 to record his first cassette that didn’t seem to catch on with music fans. Soon, another cassette followed in 1993, again without much success.
Dispirited and working as a bus driver, Mr. Bagayogo sunk into depression and addiction, losing his wife and the bus driving job as a result. This low point would take him back to his home village and essentially disappear from the music scene. By the late 1990s, Mr. Bagayogo would finally put his life back on track by quitting the drugs, travel back to Bamako and fashion his own sound out of the musical traditions of his home region with those of rock, funk, electronica and dub styles.
Earning the nickname “Techno Issa” by way of his mix of Mali’s musical roots and western dance, Mr. Bagayogo earned a name not only through his singing and playing, but also by way of his music that tacked such issues as cultural pride, drug use, AIDS and other social issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Bagayogo worked with keyboardist and producer Yves Wernert and bandmates and guitarists Karamoukou Diabate and Mama Sissoko. Mr. Bagayogo would go on to record Sya, Timbuktu, Tassoumakan and Mali Koura, all on the Six Degrees Records label.
In a statement, Six Degrees Records said, “All of us at Six Degrees Records are greatly saddened to learn that our friend and artist, Issa Bagayogo has passed away after a lengthy illness. He was a kind and gentle soul, whose music touched many people around the world & moved many a dance-floor.”
Mr. Bagayogo will be returned to his home village in Korin Bougouni for burial.
Contemporary Mandé griot act Trio Da Kali has announced its upcoming American tour. Trio Da Kali features Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté on vocals, Lassana Diabaté (of AfroCubism) on the bala and Mamadou Kouyaté (son of Bassekou Kouyaté) on the bass ngoni. The Trio recently performed in Spain at WOMEX 2016.
Trio Da Kali has been in the studio recording a new album with Kronos Quartet.
02.11.2016 – ArtsLIVE – University of Dayton, OH (USA)
04.11.2016 – Zellerbach Auditorium – University of California, Berkeley CA (USA)
06.11.2016 – Center for the Arts – Grass Valley, CA (USA)
09.11.2016 – Sanctuary for Independent Media – Troy NY (USA)
11.11.2016 – Goddard College – Plainfield VT (US)
12.11.2016 – Carnegie Hall-Zankel – New York NY (USA) with Derek Gripper
13.11.2016 – Calvary Center – Crossroads Music, Philadelphia, PA (USA)
Acclaimed Malian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traoré is set to perform on Sunday, October 30, 2016 at Symphony Space in New York City.
Rokia Traoré mixes the sounds of Mali with desert blues, folk, and other musical traditions. On her 2016 album, Né So, Rokia invited John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), and Devendra Banhart to help her communicate her deep sorrow at the state of chaos in her native Mali.
“Rokia continues the strong modern legacy of female singer-songwriters from Mali such as Oumou Sangare and Fatomatou Diawara, and takes the desert blues and folk traditions of her homeland to new realms,” says World Music Institute artistic director Par Neiburger, “Rokia’s style is distinct, and her vocals and musicianship make her a singular artist who appeals to even those not familiar with or previously exposed to African music.”
Sunday, October 30, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $35 / $45 / $55
Bassekou Kouyate is one of the true masters of the ngoni, an ancient traditional lute found throughout West Africa, and he has collaborated with many musicians in and outside of Mali. He played in the Symmetric trio alongside Toumani Diabate (kora) and Keletigui Diabate (balafon). He was part of Taj Mahal’s and Toumani Diabate’s Kulanjan project, as well as being one of the key musicians on Ali Farka Toure’s posthumous album Savane which was released July 2006. He also toured with Ali Farka Toure before Toure passed away, leaving a lasting impression on the audience as the band’s solo ngoni player.
Bassekou was born in a village called Garana, almost 40 miles from Segu, in the remote countryside on the banks of the Niger River. He was raised in a traditional musical environment, his mother a praise singer and his father and brothers exceptional ngoni players.
Bassekou moved to Bamako when he was 19 years old where he met the young Toumani Diabate. By the late 1980s Bassekou was part of Toumani’s trio and they recorded their first albums together, Songhai and Djelika.
Bassekou married the singer Ami Sacko (the so-called ‘Tina Turner of Mali’) and they have been in high demand for the traditional Sunday wedding parties that happen in the streets of Bamako. Bassekou now has his own band, Ngoni ba (meaning ‘the big ngoni’), Mali’s first ngoni quartet.
The repertoire Bassekou plays is from the region of Segu, the heart of Bambara culture. Unlike Mandinka griot music, Bambara music is pentatonic in nature, a music as close to the blues as you can get in Africa.
His debut CD, Segu Blue (Out Here Records), features guest musicians Kasse Mady Diabate, Lobi Traore, Lassana Diabate and singers Zoumana Tereta and Bassekou’s wife, Ami Sacko. The album was produced by Lucy Duran, recorded at studio Bogolan in Bamako by Yves Wernert and mixed in London by Jerry Boys.
In 2009, Seattle-based indie rock label Sub Pop licensed Bassekou Kouyate’s second album I Speak Fula. The album was the first release on their newly founded sub label Next Ambiance, a collaboration between Sub Pop Records and Jon Kertzer, presenter of the ‘Best Ambiance’ show on Seattle-based public radio station KEXP. Sub Pop/Next Ambiance released I Speak Fula throughout North America, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
In 2010, World Circuit Records released Afrocubism, an album that brought together top musicians from Cuba and Mali. The album featured renowned Cuban singer and guitarist Eliades Ochoa, Bassekou Kouyate and the excellent Rail Band guitarist Djelimady Tounkara. Joining them were Eliades’ Grupo Patria, amongst Cuba’s longest running and most revered bands, kora maestro Toumani Diabaté, legendary Malian griot singer Kasse Mady Diabaté and the innovative balafon player Lassana Diabaté.
In March 2012 Bassekou Kouyate recorded his third album titled Jama ko in Mali’s capital Bamako. This coincided with the military coup that overthrew the Malian president Amadou Toumani Toure, a great supporter of Bassekou.
As expected, Bassekou was deeply affected by the rapidly changing events in his country. ”Jama ko means ‘great meeting of people’: You may be rich or poor, Muslim or Christian, let’s get together and enjoy ourselves,” said Bassekou. “There are 90% Muslims in Mali, but our form of Islam here has nothing to do with Sharia, that is not our culture. We have been singing praise songs for the prophet for hundreds of years. Mali is a free and peaceful country where you can be who you want to be.”
“Jama ko” was recorded live, with no overdubs, at studio Bogolan with a completely new band line-up including two of Bassekou’s sons, Madou and Moustapha Kouyate , and the ngoni maestro Abou Sissoko. It features a duet between Amy Sacko and Khaira Arby from Timbuktu calling for peace in Mali, Kassemady Diabate praising Sinali Diarra, a Bamana king famous for resisting forced Islamization in the 19th century, Zoumana Tereta praising the cotton farmers and the great ngoni masters who are no longer with us, Harouna Samake on kamale ngoni and an extraordinary jam with Taj Mahal singing and playing guitar backed by Mocky Salole on drums. The record was co-produced by Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire/ Hotel2Tango) from Montreal. It was released in January 2013 on outhere records.
Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba’s fourth album ‘Ba Power’ (Glitterbeat Records) is marked by the incorporation of rock-style distortion and wah wah and propulsive rhythms. The album was was produced in Mali by Chris Eckman (Tamikrest, Aziza Brahim) and it features significant guests: from Mali Samba Touré, Zoumana Tereta and Adama Yalomba; from the USA, seminal trumpet player Jon Hassell (Brian Eno, The Talking Heads, Bjork and Peter Gabriel) and rock guitarist Chris Brokaw (Lemonheads, Come, the Thurston Moore Band etc.); and from the UK, acclaimed drummer Dave Smith (Robert Plant’s Sensational Space Shifters, Fofoulah, JuJu).
Segu Blue (Out Here Records, 2007) I Speak Fula (Out Here Records, 2009)/(Sub Pop/Next Ambiance, 2010)
Afrocubism (World Circuit Records, 2010) Jama Ko (outhere records, 2013) Ba Power‘ (Glitterbeat Records, 2015)
Djelimady Tounkara’s name has become synonymous with Mali’s legendary Rail Band. He has seen the band through a quarter century of colorful history and constant change.
He was born in 1947 in Kita, Mali. All his adult life, Djelimady has worked to transform his ancestral traditions into dance pop. But at the same time, he has continued to work in more traditional contexts, backing the great jeli singers of Mali on records, in concerts and at the day-long wedding and baptism celebrations that are the modern jeli’s life blood.
A guitarist, Djelimady Tounkara, has been a driving force in Mali’s rich music scene since the early 1960s. The former shepherd and drummer began playing in the local ‘Orchestre’ in Kita, a town in Western Mali renowned for its musical community. He keenly absorbed the influence of Cuban and Congolese music from the radio and spent much of the 1960s building his reputation as a player in the bands Misra Jazz and L’Orchestre Nacional du Mali.
By the early 1970s he was the lead electric guitarist with the legendary Rail Band, backing first Salif Keita and then Mory Kante. They were the top band in Mali until Kante left at the end of that decade. Despite his departure, the group went on to enjoy several hit releases in the ’80s and early ’90s before their popularity dimmed.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Tounkara’s first solo album was released. Sigui showcases his remarkable finger picking skills in the context of an acoustic ensemble. Tounkara reinterprets traditional jeli tunes (songs from caste members responsible for keeping an oral history of the village or tribe) and a number of classic songs from the Rail Band years with the help of nine talented singers and instrumentalists.
His intricate guitar playing is accompanied by percussion, bass, guitar and the scrabbling notes of the ngoni, an instrument considered by many to be West African precursor to the banjo.
In recent years, Djelimady has performed in an acoustic trio called Bajourou, accompanied by another masterful jeli guitarist, Bouba Sacko, and by singer Lafia Diabate, a veteran of the Rail Band. Bajourou released one record titled Big String Theory.
Djelimady Tounkara won the BBC-3 World Music Award for Africa in 2001. Having chosen to stay close to his roots, Tounkara is now bandleader of the Super Rail Band and his style, rhythm and sense of swing has made him one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
In 2001, Djelimady Tounkara released Sigui on Indigo/Label Bleu, an acoustic album showcasing Tounkara’s love for Manding and Bambara traditions.
In 2010, he participated in the Afrocubism project, an album that brought together top musicians from Cuba and Mali. Afrocubism featured Djelimady Tounkara along with legendary Cuban singer and guitarist Eliades Ochoa and ngoni master Bassekou. Joining them were Eliades’ Grupo Patria, amongst Cuba’s longest running and most admired bands, kora maestro Toumani Diabaté, legendary Malian griot singer Kasse Mady Diabaté and skilled balafon performer Lassana Diabaté.
Malian guitar maestro Vieux Farka Touré is set to perform Saturday, October 1, 2016 at (Le) Poisson Rouge. This concert will mark the beginning of the World Music Institute’s Desert Blues concert series.
Vieux Farka Touré is the son of legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, the artist mainly responsible for introducing Africa’s desert blues tradition to audiences around the world.