Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

The Touré-Raichel Collective – Bamba

This week’s song comes from a unscripted, collaborative album comprised of Vieux Farka Touré and Israeli piano ‘superstar’ Idan Raichel, with mutual friend Yossi Fine on bass and Touré’s calabash player Souleymane Kane. Its an exceptional album for so many reasons. Firstly, Touré and Raichel met by chance in an airport in Germany in 2008. Raichel idolised Vieux’s father, Ali, and he was desperately excited to get something going between the pair. After a performance alongside him in Cartagena, Spain, Vieux developed strong respect for the Raichel’s global outlook and musical brilliance. Later, Vieux accepted Raichel’s invitation to be the first concert of his world music curatorship at the Tel Aviv Opera House. The day after this marvellous concert, where all four of the above musicians featured, Raichel and Touré headed to a friend’s recording studio and within a few hours had created the album The Tel Aviv Sessions.

Eric Herman, Vieux’s manager, was in the studio: “I was thinking to myself, ‘Alright, this is fun, a really nice little jam.’ Soon there were two of three tracks and I started to think ‘Hmm, maybe there will be something here we could use…’ After bout five or six amazing songs were laid down I said, ‘Wait a minute, we have a full album here!”

Eric explains that there were no expectations. It was really just a selection of musicians doing a jam, which during everyone involved, especially the musicians, soon realised was turning into something very special. “It was really the most fluid and pleasant recording experience…what struck me was the nakedness of it…this was entirely freeform – an open exchange.”

The album in total is an excellent, and perhaps only, example of Vieux Farka Touré’s acoustic talents. Other musicians that were stumped at the work that had been created were merged into some tracks at the stage where Idan was editing and smoothing out what had been made. For example, the Persian tar instrument on the track ‘Kfar’ was played by Yankele Segal. ‘Bamba’ – this week’s song – is the best example, in my opinion, of the fusing of piano and acoustic guitar from the album. Raichel provides one explaination for why the music weaves together so beautifully:

“The way that I play piano during the session comes from the kora…sometimes I’m using the strings of the piano, plucking them with my fingers like a harp, other times I’m beating the piano as if it was a drum. I use the piano as a whole instrument.”

All in all, the song is an incredible testament to the versatility of world music and the intelligence of its greatest exponents.It is amazing to think that ‘Bamba’ with so much beauty was created in a fragment of an afternoon. This song is also special as it featured as part of the music at my wedding, which was last Thursday. So forever it will have an exceptional meaning and have the ability to transport me to a very, very happy place.

The Touré-Raichel Collective – Bamba

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *