Tag Archives: Malian music

Malian Band Songhoy Blues Announces January 2019 UK Tour


Acclaimed Malian band Songhoy Blues, has announced a short run of U.K. dates in January 2019.

 Currently in the process of writing and recording their new album, their upcoming live dates follow their much talked about U.K. shows in2017 including a formidable set on the Park Stage at Glastonbury, a sold out headline show as part of the Summer Series at Somerset House in London, a tremendous success at the Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia and a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

 The group has released two albums: Music in Exile (2015) and Résistance (2017).

The full list of shows is as follows:

22 January, 2019– Kendal – The Brewery

23 January, 2019– Manchester – Band on The Wall

24 January, 2019– Glasgow – Celtic Connections

25 January, 2019– Leeds – Opera North

27 January, 2019– London – Earth

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Artist Profiles: Songhoy Blues

Songhoy Blues

Songhoy Blues is a Malian desert blues band based in Bamako, Mali formed by Garba Touré, Aliou Touré, Oumar Touré and Nathanael Dembélé

Songhoy Blues released its debut album, Music In Exile in 2015.

The second album, Résistance, was recorded in the fall of 2016 at The Pool studio in London with producer Neil Comber (MIA, Django Django, Crystal Fighters, Declan McKenna) and also includes a guest appearance from Elf Kid.

Discography:

Music in Exile (Transgressive Records, 2015)                       

Résistance (Transgressive Records, 2017)

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Las Maravillas de Mali to Perform in London in 2019

Legendary West African ensemble Las Maravillas de Mali is set to perform on Thursday, May 2, 2019 at Barbican Hall in London. The acclaimed Malian Afro-Cuban orchestra’s present line-up will take to the Barbican stage for the first time in May 2019, accompanied by Guinean singer Mory Kanté.

Las Maravillas de Mali’s Barbican line-up will include West African and Cuban musicians: Boncana Maïga (composer, conductor), Mory Kanté (vocals), Pepe Rivero (piano), Florent José Alapini aka. Jospinto (vocals), Juancito Hurtado (vocals), David Reicer (flute), Eduardo Coma (violin), Armando García Fernandez (violin), Reicel Pedroso Diaz (violin), Nahomi Stephany (viola), Inor Sotolongo (timpani), Abraham Mansfarroll (congas), Sergio Fernández Pedroza (piano) and Felipe Cabrera Cárdenas (bass).

More information about the band.

The Barbican Centre is located on Silk Street, London, Greater London.
Barbican Box Office: 0845 120 7550 and www.barbican.org.uk

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Artist Profiles: Las Maravillas de Mali

Las Maravillas de Mali

Formed in the early 1960s, Las Maravillas de Mali became an iconic ensemble of the Afro-Cuban musical tradition, singing in Spanish, Bambara and French.

In the middle of the Cold War, the early 1960s was a period of Communist camaraderie between the Africa of independence and the revolutionary Cuba of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. In 1964, the Cuban government invited ten young musicians from Mali to study in Havana. These young artists spent seven years studying music in Cuba, marking the establishment of Las Maravillas de Mali.

The group recorded one self-titled album in 1968 that included the song that became one of the greatest hits in this revolutionary era: “Rendez-Vous Chez Fatimata,” combining Cuban influences with traditional Malian music.

Las Maravillas de Mali’s story came to the attention of French producer Richard Minier in 1999 and he worked to recreate the ensemble. Together with the band’s remaining survivor and original member, Boncana Maïga, Minier retraced the group’s steps and went to Havana on several occasions, re-recording new versions of the album’s songs in the same surroundings as before, in the now famed Egrem studios.

In 2018, the orchestra was revived again in an effort led by Malian musician and founder Boncana Maïga, Cuban pianist Manolito, Beninese vocalist Jospinto and Guinean vocalist Mory Kanté.

Discography:

Maravillas De Mali (Disco Stock, 1968)
Maravillas De Mali (Maestro Sound, 1999)

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Malian Sensation Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba to Release Miri in 2019

Bassekou Kouyate – Photo by Robin Chanda

 

Malian ngoni trailblazer Bassekou Kouyate has announced the release of a new album in 2019 titled ‘Miri’. The new recording, on Out Here Records, is scheduled for release on January 25, 2019.
Together with his band Ngoni Ba, Miri features his wife, vocalists Amy Sacko. Guests include Abdoulaye Diabate, Habib Koite and Afel Bocoum.

To celebrate the release of the new album, a series of UK dates has been booked, starting with the monumental Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow on January25, 2019, followed by London, Liverpool, Leeds and other locations.

Bassekou Kouyate’s earlier recordings include Segu Blue (Out Here Records), I Speak Fula (Out Here Records), Afrocubism (World Circuit Records), Jama Ko (Out Here Records) and Ba Power‘ (Glitterbeat Records),

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Artist Profiles: Rokia Traore

Rokia Traore

Rokia Traore was born in 1974 and comes from Bamako. Though-steeped in tradition, Rokia Traore’s music is thoroughly integrated into a contemporary sound, thanks to her upbringing in a multicultural environment. Unlike many other Malian singers she does not come from the jali caste, but rather from the class sponsoring them.

Her father was a diplomat, and so she lived in many different places away from Mali: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France, and Belgium. As a result, Rokia Traore has managed to integrate the atmospheres of great many places into her recordings. She grew up listening to all types of music, Algerian and Malian music, jazz, blues, reggae and afropop, and her original career choice was social sciences. Yet once she decided to become an artist instead, the great guitarist, singer and sound engineer Ali Farka Toure, who encouraged and recorded many of the upcoming, independent, and innovative Malian performers, became her mentor.

Rokia Traoré

Another big influence is Massembou Diallo. He used to play with Rokia’s father in an amateur band called Chiwa Band. He encouraged her to make music and composed Rokia’s first two pieces together with her.

Rokia was the winner of the African Discoveries award.

Discography:

Mouneïssa (Indigo, 1998)
Wanita (Indigo, 2000)
Bowmboï (Indigo, 2003)
Tchamantché (Indigo, 2008)
Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch, 2013)
Né So (Nonesuch, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Salif Keita

Salif Keita

A master of West African rhythms and credited as one of the founders of the Afropop genre, Salif Keita is world renowned for his unforgettable live performances, soaring vocals and his emotionally-fueled songs.

Born in Mali, West Africa in 1949, Salif Keita comes from a noble family, and is a descendant of Sunjata Keita, who founded the Mali Empire in 1240. Salif Keita was the third of thirteen children born to Sina Keita, a landowner in the village of Djoliba, where he grew up, near Mali’s capital, Bamako.

Born albino in a land of blistering sun and heat, with limited eyesight and poor despite his social standing, his mother had to hide him to avoid the attacks of the superstitious crowds who called for his death. In addition to the problems of growing up as an albino, Keita found the opposition of his family to his interest in becoming a singer since the traditions of his ancestry excluded members of the nobility from becoming singers. Keita’s decision to become a musician broke an important taboo as in Mali as only the lower jeli class made its living from music.

In 1970, at the age of 18, Salif Keita left Djoliba for Bamako, where he spent time as a street musician and playing in bars. The first group that he worked with was the legendary Super Rail Band, a state-supported ensemble that was based at a Bamako railway station hotel, and served as an important launching pad for the careers of numerous West African musicians, including kora player and singer Mory Kante, and guitarist Kante Manfila.

In 1973, Salif Keita left the Rail Band, and with guitarist Kante Manfila he joined Les Ambassadeurs, which later became Les Ambassadeurs International. The new group developed the fusion between traditional music and western electric influences. 1977 saw Salif Keita being awarded the National Order of Guinea by Sekou Toure, the Guinean President. By that time, Salif Keita had also discovered American singers like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Tina Turner. Their powerful way of singing and presence on stage taught Keita a lot about live performances.

Restricted by the limited opportunities and political climate in Mali, the group moved south and set up base in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, where they performed and recorded successfully during the late 1970s. The epic 12 minute track “Mandjou”, that is featured on the Mansa of Mali album, was recorded live in Abidjan during this period.

In 1984 Les Ambassadeurs Internationales broke up, and Salif Keita moved to Paris, launching a career that saw him recording the classic Soro album in 1987, produced by Ibrahim Sylla.

A recording deal with Island Records followed, which resulted in the release of the album Ko-Yan in 1989, an album influenced by influential jazz fusion band Weather Report, and that led directly to Salif’s collaboration with Weather Report keyboardist, composer and arranger Joe Zawinul in 1990. With help from Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and a number of carefully picked musicians from Mali and France, Zawinul produced Amen, the album that made Salif the first African band leader to win a Grammy nomination.

The impressive Mansa of Mali retrospective was released in 1993 to coincide with Salif Keita’s tours of the United States, and Southern Africa. Recorded in Paris, New York and Bamako, his album, Papa, features special guests Vernon Reid (Living Color), Grace Jones and John Medeski, an album of the new African/American music, bringing together musicians from Mali and America.

On his 2002 album, Moffou, Salif Keita was joined by excellent musicians, including Cape Verdian diva Cesaria Evora on the track Yamore, guitar-hero Djeli Moussa Kouyaté from Guinea, and his old freind Kanté Manfila (acoustic guitar), both of them long-time companions of Salif.

Moffou is both the title of the album and the name of of the club that the singer opened in Bamako in 2002 to promote the West African music scene. In both cases, the choice of the name expresses his genuine desire to return to the roots of Mali.

Salif Keita

In April of 2004, Decca/Universal Music released Remixes from Moffou. The album expanded on the original recording of Moffou that took him on a tour around the world. He collaborated with some of the world’s finest producers and DJs, each bringing a unique contribution to the music, changing its tempo and atmosphere. A sound with a whole new dimension, the disc has traces of funk, house and drum-n-bass.Each song on Remixes is transformed – the songs were given a new face without distorting the delicate melodies that were originally written. The idea to remix the entire album was spawned from the feedback that was given from young music fans. They rushed out to buy “Yamore” (Keita’s duet with Cesaria Evora) and club kids went crazy for Marin Solveig’s remix of “Madan.” European FM radio stations also took notice of the remix which prompted Universal France to take a step further.

Patrick Votan, artistic director at Universal Jazz France explained, “Following the success of “Madan” we decided to ask electro artists who are close to the African scene such as Osunlade, Doctor L and Frederic Galliano to work on remixes of other tracks from the album. We also got major mainstream electro stars such as La Funk Mob (the defunct duo of Cassius Philippe Zdar and Boombass who got back together for the project), Charles Webster and Luciano on board the project in the hope that this would take the work of Salif Keita, a unique and original artist, to the ears of a new public.”

On M’Bemba (2006), the traditional instruments such as the ngoni lute played by Mama Sissoko, and the kora played by Toumani Diabate, evoke the memory of Salif Keita’s own ancestor, Sundiata Keita, the warrior king who founded the Manding Empire in the 13th century. Representing a genuine piece of family history, the new recording was the first time Salif’s foster-sisters joined him on record for the chorus of the title track. Also appearing on the album was dancehall/reggae great, Buju Banton, who lent his talents on the upbeat track “Ladji.”

The same talented group of musicians who performed on Moffou also joined Salif on M’Bemba, including Djeli Moussa Kouyate on guitar, Mino Cinellu on percussion, Salif’s early mentor, guitarist and arranger, Kante Manfila with Ousmane Kouyate also on guitar.

Keita aims to spread his message of hope through his music, through his actions, and through his words. “Happiness isn’t for tomorrow,” Keita said. “It’s not hypothetical; it starts here and now. . . . Nature has given us extraordinary things. . . . Let’s take advantage of the wonders of this continent at last – intelligently, in our own way, at our own rhythm, like responsible men proud of their inheritance. “Let’s build the country of our children, and stop taking pity on ourselves. Africa is also the joy of living, optimism, beauty, elegance, grace, poetry, softness, the sun and nature. Let’s be happy to its sons, and fight to build our happiness.”

Discography:

Dans L’Authenticité Vol.1, with Kante Manfila ‎(Badmos, 1979)
Dans l’Authenticité Vol. 2, with Kante Manfila ‎(Badmos, 1979)
Tounkan (Celluloid, 1981)
Salif Keita & Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux ‎(Badmos International Records, 1981)
Mandjou (Celluloid, 1984)
Soro (Mango, 1987)
Salif Keita & Mory Kante (Syllart Records, 1988)
Ko-Yan (Mango, 1989)
Amen (Mango, 1991)
L’Enfant Lion, soundtrack ‎(Mango, 1993)
Folon…The Past (Mango, 1995)
Sosie (MS Verdenshjørnet, 1996)
Seydou Bathily ‎(Sonodisc, 1997)
Papa (Metro Blue, 1999)
Moffou (Universal Music Jazz France, 2002)
The Lost Album Inédits (Cantos, 2005)
M’Bemba (Universal Music Jazz France, 2005)
La Différence (Universal Music France, 2009)
Talé (Universal Music France, 2012)

Videos

Salif Keita – World Music Portrait (Shanachie, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Super Rail Band

Super Rail Band – Photo by Ellis Vener

The legendary band that has been an institution in Mali since the late 1960s, Super Rail Band, mixes traditional African instruments with electric guitars, led by the mesmerizing presence of singer and guitarist Djelimady Tounkara.

The Super Rail Band was born out of a Malian government subsidy in the 1950s for local groups to integrate indigenous folk traditions into their music, including Manding jeli songs and hunting songs, which the band mixed in with its Afro-Cuban dance rhythms, electric guitars and trap drums. For years, the band anchored a lively international scene at the dance bar operated by the Mali Rail Company at the railway station in Bamako, Mali’s capital.

The Super Rail Band served as an important launching pad for the careers of numerous West African musicians, including kora player and singer Mory Kante, and guitarist Kante Manfila. The Rail Band became legendary because it nurtured Mory Kante and Salif Keita. The two singers went on to solo fame. But even without its famous singers, Tounkara is one of the genre’s most charismatic performers.

Head of orchestra, saxophonist – Kabiné Kéïta
Percussionist – Bamba Dembélé
Arranger, guitar solo – Djéli Mady Tounkara
Vocals – Bamory Kouyaté, Modibo Diabaté, Abdoulaye Traoré
Drums – Maguett Diop
Tumba – Lassana Bagayogo
Guitar – Fanta Mady Kouyaté
Guitar – Foligni Kéïta
Saxophonist – Mamadou Ouédraogo

Discography:

Sunjata (Bärenreiter-Musicaphon, 1970)
Melodias Rail Band du Mali (Kouma, 1976)
Concert “Rail Band” du Mali (Kouma, 1976)
Orchestre du Buffet Hôtel de la Gare de Bamako (, 1977)
Affair Social (Sacodis, 1979)
New Dimensions in Rail Culture (Globestyle, 1985)
Super Rail Band de Bamako/ Djougouya Magni (Indigo, 1994)
Mansa (Indigo, 1996)
Kongo Sigui (Indigo, 2003)

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Artist Profiles: Tinariwen

Tinariwen

Tinariwen (originally Taghreft Tinariwen, or “edification of the lands”) became known for vocalizing the political plight of endangered nomads. Their music spoke to the Tuareg or Kel Tamashek, appealing for a political awakening of consciousness.

For a century, the tribes of the southern Sahara searched the barren landscape for every weapon available to maintain hope in the midst of ethnic cleansing and public executions. With the dawn of the 21st Century, the Kel Tamashek turned to the global circuit. Musicians are the modern warriors. And lyrics have changed to focus on suffering, love, and hope. A Tinariwen song claims, “If I could sing so that those in London could hear, then the whole world would hear my song.”

Although Tinariwen formed in 1982, they remained underground (Mali and Algeria banned the political lyrics) until the group moved to the Malian capital of Bamako in 1999. There, the ten members drew on a rebel rock sensibility, openly playing their passionate, trance-like Desert Blues. During the first eclipse (and first full moon) of the millennium, Tinariwen performed at The Festival in the Desert. Staged near the ancient ruins of Tamaradant, remote and distant from any visible life, the Festival was an effort to further goals of reconciliation, development, and international awareness.

Reporter Andy Morgan asserted that Tinariwen’s soulful music produced a magical effect on the crowd, causing “the young Tuaregs to stamp and dance with abandon in front of the stage. These men were heroes and mentors.” The ten band members are indeed the pride of the Tuareg people. Experiences in battle have created many legends. Kheddou is said to have received 17 bullet wounds after leading several raids, armed only with a guitar on his back and a Kalashnikov in his hands. Once, he was doused in gasoline, owing his life to a faulty lighter.

After witnessing his father’s murder at the hands of Malian soldiers, a drought forced Ibrahim to join a training camp in southern Libya, where Ghadaffi made promises to help the Tamashek cause. In between classes about revolution, Islamism, and guerrilla warfare, Ibrahim smoked cigarettes and played music with Hassan and Intayedan (who has since passed away). Upon hearing the music of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Moroccan music for the first time, they discarded traditional instruments like the shepherd flute and tinde drum in favor of the electric guitar, bass, and drums. However, they continued the tradition of Assak, or the traditional male skills of poetic composition, and choral call-and-response. Soon they became musical revolutionaries, creating a new style of music called Tishoumaren, or simply guitar.

The songs of Tinariwen are petitions for political and cultural self-determination. They have become a point of identity for Tuareg youth. In a land void of laptops and TVs, cheap cassette recordings spread hope and resolve. Sick of the suffering caused by armed rebellion, the music of bands like Tinariwen is the new weapon of choice.

Discography:

Ténéré ‎(EMI, 1993)
The Radio Tisdas Sessions (Wayward Records/World Village, 2001)
Amassakoul (/World Village, 2003)
Aman Iman: Water Is Life (Independiente, 2006)
Imidiwan: Companions (World Village, 2009)
Tassili (V2, 2011)
Live At Bouffes Du Nord ‎(2011)
Emmaar (Anti-/Wedge, 2013)
Live In Paris (Anti-/Wedge, 2015)
Elwan (Epitaph, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Vieux Farka Toure

Vieux Farka Toure – Photo by Thomas Arnbo

Growing up, Vieux played calabash (a unique-sounding dried gourd drum used in Mali) and other percussion, but his father didn’t want Vieux to face the same struggles he had as a musician, and discouraged him from following the same path. The Toure family comes from a noble lineage, in a land where musicians usually come from a musical caste.

Ali went against his own family’s societal role to become a musician and suffered as a result; first struggling to make a living at home in Mali, and then getting cheated by a French producer early in his career. The BBC reported that when he won his first Grammy award, Ali chose not to travel to the United States to collect his prize, saying: “I don’t know what a Grammy means but if someone has something for me, they can come and give it to me here in Niafunke, where I was singing when nobody knew me.”

Ali wanted his son to become a soldier. But Vieux secretly took up the guitar behind closed doors. He enrolled in the Arts Institute in Bamako, the same institution where Habib Koite and many other Malian musicians of note studied. When Ali realized Vieux was not going to give up on playing guitar, he enlisted his good friend Toumani Diabate as Vieux’s advisor.

When young North American producer Eric Herman of Modiba Productions expressed interest in recording Vieux he had to seek permission from Diabate, the senior Toure, and other community elders. Once Diabate and Toure heard Vieux’s initial recordings, they realized they had underestimated the younger Toure’s virtuosity. “Toumani looked shocked,” recalls Herman. “Vieux turned to me and said “See, nobody knows I can play music like this.” I knew” and it didn’t seem to be a secret that he is a really dynamic guitarist. But among the elders who he needed to be respectful of, he was humble and hiding it.”

Though my father initially resisted my playing music,” explained Vieux, “once he saw that it was truly my ambition and my calling, he was at my side; and he stayed there until the end.”

Discography:

Vieux Farka Touré ‎(World Village, 2006)
Vieux Farka Touré Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako (Modiba, 2007)
Fondo ‎(Six Degrees Records, 2009)
Live (Six Degrees Records, 2010)
The Secret ‎(Six Degrees Records, 2011)
Mon Pays (Six Degrees Records, 2013)
Touristes ‎(Six Degrees Records, 2015)
Samba (Six Degrees Records, 2017)

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