Malian Musical Brilliance

Various Artists - The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali (World Music Network, 2008)

Lately Malian musicians have cut a powerful swath through the music scene. With artists like Bassekou Kouyate, with his recent BBC World Music Award win, or Amadou and Mariam’s hit album Dimanche à Bamako or the following the late Ali Farka Toure built on his sheer musical brilliance, music from Mali has increasingly become a treasure trove of delights. Summing up those musical delights in one CD is surely no easy task, but the good people at World Music Network have taken on that challenge with The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali and this CD is chocked full of goodies. Packing a punch with greats like Bassekou Kouyate, Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate and Tinariwen, The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali sweeps across the West African nation with real joie de vivre.

The opening track “Bala” sparkles with a cascade of the bright work magic woven by Bassekou Kouyat & Nogoni Ba and featured artist Zoumana Tereta. With a bluesy composition and earthy vocals, “Bala” is delicious. No compilation about the music of Mali would be complete without Ali Farka Toure, and that brings me to the magical blend of Toure with kora player Toumani Diabate on the track “Simbo.”

The effortless, intertwined play of these two masters is as smooth as glass and a real treat. Amadou and Mariam offer up “La Realite” with a sassy groove and some driving rhythms that will have even the most hardened listener shimmying across the room. Rich, shimmering vocals drive many of the tracks on this Rough Guide like Babani Kone’s “Djeli Baba,” Rokia Traore’s elegant “Kana Neni” and the bluesy “Mouso Teke Soma Ye” by Boubacar Traoré.

Les Ambassadeurs Internationales offer up the hip, funky “Mousso Gnaleden” that really swings with brassy sax and organ. Vieux Farka Toure with his father Ali Farka Toure tear through the meaty instrumental “Tabara,” but I think it’s Afel Bocoum, Ali Farka Toure’s nephew, who really shines with his kick-ass blues number “Ali Farka.” This track offers up some low slung guitar riffs that simply dazzle the listener. And if that weren’t enough, The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali offers up the edgy “Arawan” from the popular Tamashek (Tuareg) music group Tinariwen and a clever version of “Summertime” called “Summertime in Bamako” by Keletigui Diabate, a truly undisputed Mande balafon master.

The Rough Guide to the Music of Mali is a generous compilation for the seasoned world music fan and perfect for newer listeners willing to dip their ear to the spectacular delights of Mali’s musical landscape.

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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.