Tag Archives: Malian music

First-Class Malian Music from Hama Sankare

Hama Sankare – Niafunke (Clermont Music, 2019)

If you’ve ever heard Malian artists like Ali Farka Toure, Afel Bocoum, Le Troup Regionale de Nia funke, L’Orchestre de Gao, Songhoy Allstars or BanKaiNa, you’ve heard Alpha Ousamane “Hama” Sankare. This vocalist, calabash player, composer and arranger is a kind of musical cornerstone in Mali’s musical landscape who stepped out on worldwide musical stage in 2018 on his Clermont Music release Ballebe – Calling All Africans.

Now, because the fine folks at Clermont Music know a good thing when they hear it, they’ve set loose another stunning collection of songs by Mr. Sankare on the world music scene. Entitled Niafunke , Mr. Sankare blazes bright with this collection of original tracks with a few traditional Malian tunes thrown in for good measure and a track co-written with vocalist Afel Bocoum.

Hama Sankare – Niafunke

Whether you’re new to the wonders of Malian music or are already a devoted fan, Niafunke is brimming over with Malian goodness.

Joining Mr. Sankare’s vocals and calabash playing on this recording is a first class line-up of musicians including Oumar Konate on guitar, Oramane Toure on bass, Makan Camara on drums and percussion, Afel Bocoum on backing vocals, Yoro Cisse on monochord, Alibaba Traore on guitar, Kande Sissoko on ngoni and Sekou Toure on backing vocals.

Overflowing with trance-inducing rhythms, warm call-and-response vocals, shimmering guitar licks so good they’ll make a grown man weep and surrounded by the steady, righteous rhythms of calabash, Niafunke is stellar collection of musical treats.

From the opening of “Dewel Wege” through tracks like the guitar lick laced “Remobe” and goodies like “Tiega Mali” and traditional track “Nojarro,” Niafunke is all hip grooves surrounded by that keenly felt Malian dessert blues/rock stamp.

Fans will definitely want to take a listen to “Alkaleyka,” the bluesy “Yer Kur Ti Afo” and the feel good “Solane,” as well as the upbeat ode to women and children “Cherie” and spectacular instrumental “Baba Gomni.”

Niafunke overflows with great music and good grooves, so my only complaint about Niafunke has nothing to do with the music itself, it concerns the liner notes. In teeny tiny letters on the back of the cover under the song title are some of the lyrics to the songs. Some of these lyrics include: “Today Mali suffers – Killings Banditry – We are tearing each other apart,” “People of Mali come together for peace,” and “Its is a tragedy that there are so many people without meaningful work. So much human potential is being lost.”

I’ll say right out that the regular World Music Central reader is smarter than the average bear. That being said, I’m sure there are a good number of folks out there that have no clue about the goings on in Mali or even where Mali is. If it takes liner notes concerning the state of affairs another country or culture or the tragedies of another group of people far away to enlighten music lovers then that’s what it takes. I don’t think making a point to publish decent sized liner notes of a song’s lyrics so people can and are encourage to read them takes anything away from the music. Knowing the hardships of Mali doesn’t take power away from Mr. Sankare’s music – it makes it all the more powerful.

Buy Niafunke in North America

Buy Niafunke in Europe


Celebrated Malian Singer Fatoumata Diawara Announces 2019 North American Tour

Fatoumata Diawara

Malian singer-songwriter and guitarist Fatoumata Diawara will be touring North America in March and April to support her new Shanachie Records album Fenfo (“Something To Say”).

Fatoumata Diawara – Fenfo

The splendid and socially mindful artist has used her music to focus on critical matters such as arranged marriage, migration, genital mutilation, domestic violence. She also campaigned against the trafficking and sale of black migrants in Libyan slave markets.

Fatoumata Diawara has collaborated with Bobby Womack, Herbie Hancock, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Damon Albarn, Roberto Fonseca, David Crosby, Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangaré and Snarky Puppy.

Tour dates:

March 21 – Neptuno Theater – Seattle, WA
March 23 – The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles, CA
March 24 – San Francisco Jazz Festival – San Francisco, CA
March 26 – Montorco – Music Hall – Durham, NC
March 28 – Savannah Music Festival – Savanah, GA
March 30 – Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
March 31 – Highland Center for the Arts – Greensboro, VT
April 2 – Le National – Montreal, Canada
April 3, Palais Montcalm – Maison de la Musique – Quebec, Canada
April 4 – Toronto Centre for the Arts – Toronto, Canada
April 5 – City Winery Boston – Boston, MA
April 6 – North Beach Bandshell – Miami Beach, FL


Bassekou Kouyate’s Impeccably Crafted Music

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba – Miri (Out Here Records, 2019)

Over the years Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba have dazzled fans with recordings like Ba Power (2015), Jama Ko (2013), I Speak Fula (2010) and Segu Blue (2007), so it can come as no surprise that Mr. Kouyate and the members of Ngoni Ba are back at it, serving up some equally fabulous music on their fifth studio album called Miri (meaning dream or contemplation in the Bamana language) from Mr. Kouyate’s original label Out Here Records.

Dipping into topics like love, family, friendship and current struggles over ethnic differences, power and climate change, Mr. Kouyate puts a finger on the pulse of Mali and an every changing world and gives it to us good by way of impeccably crafted music and singsong vocals.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba – Miri

Miri proves rich and rewarding Malian fare from the opening track “Kanougnon” with its sweet vocals and oud by guest artist Majid Bekkas against the intricate delicacies of ngoni on this searching for love song. Equally delicious is “Deli,” a song about friendship that boasts some outstanding percussion. Joining Mr. Kouyate on his own lead ngoni and Ngoni Ba members Amy Sacko on lead vocals, Abou Sissoko on medium ngoni, Madou Kouyate on bass ngoni, Mahamadou Tounkara on doundoun, tama and yabara and Moctar Kouyate on cabasse on the track “Kanto Kelena” is vocalist Habib Koite. Fans get a dose of Cuba on “Wele Cuba” with guest singer Yasel Gonzalez Rivera from the group Madera Limpia.

Title track “Miri” is a stunning instrumental track. Interestingly, the track is based on the Mr. Kouyate’s experiences as a child playing by the Niger River near his hometown Garana. Musically, Mr. Kouyate struggles with the easy memories of playing by the river with Mali’s current struggles with the Islamist movement, falling tourism and climate change that has dried out parts of the Niger River. It is through the music that Mr. Kouyate dreams of peace in his country.

There are other goodies like the twangy touches of Mr. Kouyate’s bottleneck slide ngoni on bluesy “Wele Ni” with vocals by Abdoulaye Diabate, some fiery percussion and ngoni lines on the track “Konya” and the rich vocals of Amy Sacko on the bluesy “Nyame,” a song urging respect your family and your family’s heritage with some extra help from guest fiddler Casey Driessen.

Guest singer Afel Bocoum appears on the “Tabital Palaaku,” a song about the conflicts between herders and farmers and the ethnic struggles that go along with struggles over land use in the wake of climate change. Miri closes out with an homage to Mr. Kouyate’s mother on the track he named after her called “Yakare.” Ms. Sacko gives voice to Yakare and her 13 children and a life of singing.

Miri is a true treat and all about the big dreams, small pleasures, love, friendship and hardship of Mali.


Malian Singer Sali Sidibé Dies at 59

Sali Sidibé

Malian vocalist Sali Sidibé died on February 8, 2019 in Bamako at the age of 59. She was a significant artist from the Wassulu region of Mali.

Born in 1959, Sali Sidibé began her professional music career with an album released in 1980 titled L’enfant chéri du Wassolon (The Darling Child of Wassolon), with vocals in Bambara. Wassoulou Foli (Sterns), produced by Ibrahima Sylla, was her first album widely distributed internationally.


Miri by Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Number One on the Transglobal World Music Chart

Miri (Outhere Records), the new album by Malian sensation Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba is the number one album in February 2019 on the Transglobal World Music Chart.

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Miri

The February chart:

  1. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Miri – Outhere
  2. Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin – Karin – Muziekpublique
  3. Dhafer Youssef – Sounds of Mirrors – Anteprima
  4. Urna Chahar-Tugchi featuring Kroke – Ser – Urna Chahar-Tugchi / UCT
  5. Le Trio Joubran – The Long March – Cooking Vinyl
  6. Salif Keita – Un Autre Blanc – Naïve
  7. Ukandanz – Yeketelale – Buda Musique
  8. Belonoga – Through the Eyes of the Earth – NarRator Records
  9. Moonlight Benjamin – Siltane – Ma Case
  10. Gaye Su Akyol – İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir – Glitterbeat
  11. Debashish Bhattacharya, Hubert Zemler & Wojtek Traczyk – Joy!Guru – Unzipped Fly
  12. Afro Celt Sound System – Flight – ECC
  13. Tartit – Amankor / The Exile – Riverboat / World Music Network
  14. Ali Hassan Kuban – From Nubia to Cairo – Piranha
  15. Shooglenifty & Dhun Dhora – Written in Water – Shoogle
  16. Rodopi Ensemble – Thraki: Thrace, the Paths of Dionysus – ARC Music
  17. Janusz Prusinowski Kompania – Po Śladach / In the Footsteps – Słuchaj Uchem / Buda Musique
  18. Kelly Thoma – Ama Kopasoun oi Kairoi (As the Winds Die Down) – Kelly Thoma
  19. Alfredo Rodríguez & Pedrito Martínez – Duologue – Mack Avenue
  20. Oratnitza – Alter Ethno – Fusion Embassy

Hypnotic Strings of Africa at A World in Trance 2019 in New York

Derek Gripper

A World in Trance 2019 will present the Hypnotic Strings of Africa on Saturday March 23, 2019 at Roulette in New York.

Derek Gripper’s investigation of Mali’s greatest instrumental virtuosos has produced a new form of classical guitar music out of one of Africa’s richest musical traditions. Derek, a guitar maestro from South Africa, wonderfully performs kora (21-string harp-lute) compositions on solo guitar, a feat which the renowned classical guitarist John Williams said he thought was “absolutely impossible until I heard Derek Gripper do it.”

Gripper’s entrancing guitar versions of Toumani Diabaté’s elaborate compositions for the 21-string West African kora are without precedent.  His recent work includes transcriptions and improvisations based on the work of other Malian composers and performers such as Ali Farka Touré, Ballaké Sissoko, Salif Keita and Fanta Sacko, as well as his own compositions based on the music of the Western Cape of South Africa. His recording, Libraries on Fire, explores kora duets on solo guitar.


Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue at 3rd Avenue, Downtown Brooklyn

Box office: 917-267-0363   roulette.org


Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba to Release Miri in January 2019

Malian ngoni star Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni ba have a new album titled Miri, scheduled for release on January 25, 2019 on outhere records.

Miri is an album about affection, friendship, family and authentic values in times of crisis. Miri means dream or contemplation in bamana.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba – Miri

On Miri, Bassekou returns to his hometown, Garana, a small village at the banks of the Niger River. The instrumental song Miri captures that feeling.

Bassekou sits at the banks of the Niger far away from the noise, traffic jams and political mayhem of Bamako and thinks about life.

The international cast of guests includes Habib Koite, Afel Bocoum, Michael League, Dom Flemons, Abdoulaye Diabate, and Madera Limpia.

Bassekou Kouyate’s discography includes Segu Blue (Out Here Records, 2007), I Speak Fula (Out Here Records, 2009), Afrocubism (World Circuit Records, 2010), Jama Ko (Out Here Records, 2013) and Ba Power‘ (Glitterbeat Records, 2015)

More about Bassekoy Kouyate


Un Autre Blanc Showcases the Perseverance And Musical Mastery of Salif Keita

Salif Keita – Un Autre Blanc (Naive, 2018)

For more than 50 years the Malian singer/songwriter Salif Keita has become the cornerstone of Afro-pop music, pumping out stellar recordings like Seydou Bathili (1982), Soro (1987), Amen (1981), Papa (1999), Moffou (2002), Folon…The Past (2010), Anthology (2011) and The Lost Album (2017).  On February 15th, Mr. Keita will add another recording to his already considerable discography with the release of Un Autre Blanc on the Naive record label. 

The title Un Autre Blanc or Another White is a reference to the trials and tribulations Mr. Keita has faced through his albinism – a condition thought to be a sign of bad luck or misfortune by his Mandinka culture.  A glorious testament to his endurance and musical mastery, Mr. Keita embraces Un Autre Blanc

Dr. Cherif Keita, Mr. Keita’s cousin and biographer, and a professor at Carleton College explains, “When some people sing, they create social change. Salif changed the old ways in Mali, our relationship to musicianship, to classifying people. Because of his condition, he had to latch on to what he could do to survive in a harsh environment in Bamako. Music became his salvation.”

With a wealth of world tours, recordings and collaborations that include the likes of Carlos Santana, Joe Zawinul, Vernon Reid and Esperanza Spalding, Mr. Keita has proved the gold standard for fans around the world.

Salif Keita – Un Autre Blanc

With Un Autre Blanc, Mr. Keita prepares for retirement, but not before a final musical statement wrapped so tightly with his own identity as a persistent call for acceptance and an embrace for all of our differences, as well as a call for an end to conflict.

I’m a white man with a deep black African soul, and I have accepted that. Now you have to accept that difference and that contrast,” as Mr. Keita firmly puts it.

Opening with “Were Were,” a tribute to monumental figures like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Sekou Toure, Un Autre Blanc launches listeners into the riches of Mr. Keita’s familiar vocals and musical joyfulness. Brimming over with guitars, kora, n’goni, keyboards, horns, balafon and sassy backing vocals Un Autre Blanc is a treat.  If that weren’t incentive enough to take a listen then maybe Angelique Kidjo and rap artist MHD appearing as guest artists on the raucous “Itarafo” might temp listeners. Nigerian singer Yemi Alade appears on sweetly worked “Diawara Fa.” 

Ladysmith Black Mambazo takes a turn on a wonderful track titled “Ngamale.”  Ivory Coast reggae star Alpha Blondy joins Mr. Keita in closing out the CD on the reggae goodness of “Mansa Fo la.”  Fans should also checkout tracks “Syrie,” “Tonton” and Mr. Keita’s tribute to the beauty of a Fula woman on “Bah Poulo.”

Un Autre Blanc is just another feather in Mr. Keita’s hat and just as brilliant as the very first feather.

Buy Un Autre Blanc in North America

Buy Un Autre Blanc in Europe


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


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.


Music in Exile (Transgressive Records, 2015)                       

Résistance (Transgressive Records, 2017)