100th Edition! Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Habib Koite – Din Din Wo (Little Child)

2 years and 100 editions later, the Song of the Week arrives here. Thank you for tuning in and sharing the endless musical delights of our beloved Mali. I hope you have enjoyed it so far.

To mark this very special occasion and achievement by the Mali Interest Hub, Mali Development Group (MDG) Chair Andy Benson has graciously accepted our invitation to select this week’s instalment. Appearing as the Hub’s first ever ‘guest’, this is what he has to say about Mali and the reasoning behind his exemplary choice:


“Although a large and imposing figure, Habib Koite gives off a gentleness that is reflected in his music. Like other Malian musicians he sings about the life he sees around him. The empathy of his music acknowledges the struggle of living in one of the most hard pressed regions of the world, the mutuality and social solidarity that is needed to keep going there, the celebration and joy that comes from the warmth of relationships, and the typical Malian power of music to transport and transform. His music is melodic and lilting, sad and nostalgic like autumn, but gets in the groove as well. His guitar work is very tasty, beautifully crossing over between old and new, north and south, cultures and musical styles that live happily alongside one another. Nylon strings on his semi acoustic electric guitar offer the perfect complement to his singing and his band Bamada never fail to support the man at the front, sometimes discretely, sometimes making the pace.  The track I’ve chosen, ‘Little Child’, is of a father reassuring his child that “your mother is coming…. and won’t be long”. She’s gone to a wedding, a funeral, an errand, “… not far away”. All is well apparently but the song holds an ambiguity, maybe all is not well, maybe the mother is not to return. Simultaneously, sweet and sad – very Habib Koite.

I briefly met him, on my first visit to Mali, at the 2004 Festival of the Desert. It was Koite’s music, alongside the storming set from the late, great Ali Farka Toure, that stayed with me through the rest of that mind-blowing, life changing adventure. Travelling through Mali, the light, the red dust, the promise of the morning sun in a vast, vast landscape, and the festival itself under the Saharan stars, shook me into a different place. And in a little time later, searching for some continuing relationship with the place led me to the Mali Development Group, a small UK-based support group working with Malian voluntary organisations in Bamako, the capital city, and in remote country areas (and the group behind the Mali Interest Hub). 10 years later we’re still at it, trying to beg, borrow and blag money and other resources to support the extraordinary people of Mali. This gives back to us in spades, getting to places we’d never see otherwise and having the privilege of finding out firsthand what life is like for the communities we work with. So my thanks to Habib Koite for helping me to set out on this amazing journey.

The violence, insecurity and displacement in Mali since 2012 means that the Festival of the Desert is no longer possible right now. But, despite the Jihadists, the music plays on and with it hope for a peaceful future and opportunities for material development that can match the cultural richness of this extraordinary place.”

Andy Benson

Chair – Mali Development Group




Habib Koite – Din Din Wo (Little Child)

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