Tag Archives: ngoni

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.


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

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


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),


Artist Profiles: Bassekou Kouyate

Bassekou Kouyate - Photo by Robin Chanda
Bassekou Kouyate – Photo by Robin Chanda

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.

Bassekou Kouyate - Photo by Ziga Koritnik 2014
Bassekou Kouyate – Photo by Ziga Koritnik 2014

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 (Out Here Records, 2013)
Ba Power‘ (Glitterbeat Records, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Adama Yalomba

Adama Yalomba
Adama Yalomba – Photo by Ladji

Malian musician Adama Yalomba was born in Bamako in 1970. He plays guitar, ngoni and dan. He became known to western audiences in 2003 thanks to the CD Buy Festival in the Desert 2003.

His album Kassa, the first one distributed outside Africa, was recorded in Bogolan Studio in Bamako in 2007. Bogolan is the most famous studio in western Africa where the late Ali Farka Toure, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bjork as well as Tinariwen have recorded.

Yalomba’s reputation earned him the respect of well-known fellow musicians, several of whom appeared on the CD: Toumani Diabate, Cheick-Tidiane Seck, Rokia Traore and n’goni virtuoso Bassekou Kouyate.

In 2016 he released The eleven songs on Waati Sera.


M’bora (2001)
Yalomba (2004)
Kassa (Metis, 2007)
Waati Sera (2016)


Drawing the African Line

Call me a traditionalist, call me a purist, call me a snob, call me a journalistic hack. (Okay, that last one is kind of beside the point.) But it’s a fact that since my musical tastes went global 30-plus years ago, I‘ve leaned heavily in favor of music that sticks closer to the roots. There may well be demographic reasons pertaining to my age, my race, my status or my upbringing that contribute to my preference, or maybe it’s just my concept of authenticity that guides me. Does that mean my choice of music has to sound as close to an Alan Lomax field recording as possible? Good heavens, no. Like most people, I simply have my own ideas, shared or not, about what it means to keep it real. And modernizing need not preclude reality in my worldview, even when it comes to my abiding love for African music. The pair of gents reviewed herein share not only a surname, but an apparent desire to expand their artistry without losing sight of it.


Bassekou Kouyate at Territorios Sevilla 2009 - Photo by Eduardo G. Magaña
Bassekou Kouyate at Territorios Sevilla 2009 – Photo by Eduardo G. Magaña


Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate is a wizard of the ngoni, a paddle-shaped traditional West African lute that comes in various sizes. It looks deceptively simple but in the right hands can unleash some mighty sounds. To say Kouyate’s band Ngoni Ba is all about the ngoni would be a misstatement, for although multiple lutes are the group’s mainstay, the songs on Ba Power (Glitter Beat, 2015) add amplified non-African instruments (guitar, drums, keyboards, trumpet). Despite the additions, it’s the wall of ngoni (with Kouyate’s own in the lead) that really grabs you.



Rockish paces on some tracks unleash the power the title promises, but as often as not the music is just as mighty at slower speeds thanks to the tart, twangy interplay of the small, medium and bass ngoni and the fact that they’re always prominent in the mix. Further power comes courtesy of Amy Sacko’s soaring vocals, the snap of the calabash (gourd drum) and the subtle application of electronic overtones here and there. Every song is a corker, but best of the lot is “Abe Sumaya,” on which Kouyate and his crew- Muslims all -assure us that the loathsome ideology of Islamist fundamentalism will never prevail in Mali.


Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate - Monistic Theory
Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate – Monistic Theory


Another Kouyate, namely Sekou Kouyate, hails from Guinea and plays the 21-stringed kora. He’s teamed with guitarist/vocalist Joe Driscoll (like me, a native upstate New Yorker) on Monistic Theory (Cumbancha, 2016). The two have been collaborators since 2010, and while matchups between African and Western musicians are nothing new, these gents have a particularly good spark. Kouyate’s fluid kora and airy vocals mesh with Driscoll’s snappy guitar and rap cadences minus any unnecessary interference from overproduction, commercial aspirations or canned beats.

The fairly minimal accompaniment of drums, bass and percussion provides a snug foundation for Driscoll and Kouyate’s bilingual discourses on love, unity and the power of music, and the mostly fast tempos inspire dancing to compliment the food for thought. What I really like about this disc is how unpretentious it feels. It gets to your heart rather than getting in your face, staying true to its titular theme of oneness and letting the music convey a positive message despite the troubles currently besetting mankind.


Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba to Perform Free Concert at Skirball Cultural Center’s 2015 Sunset Concerts

Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba - Photo by  Jens Schwarz
Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba – Photo by Jens Schwarz


Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba are set to perform on Thursday, July 30, 8:00 p.m. at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Admission is free.

Malian musician Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba is one of the leading world music acts. Accompanied by his wife, Amy Sacko, and his band, Ngoni Ba, the master of the ngoni (an ancient “spike lute” and ancestor of the banjo) Kouyaté combines traditional Malian folk music with propulsive rock rhythms, distortion effects, and wah pedal.

His discography includes Segu Blue, I Speak Fula, Jama Ko, and Ba Power.



Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N Sepúlveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049
No reservation. Limited seating on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.

$10 per car (cash only). Carpooling encouraged.
Street parking strictly prohibited. Take Metro Rapid 734.

More details at: http://www.skirball.org/programs/sunset-concerts