Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ballaké Sissoko & Ludovico Einaudi – Soutoukou

Ballaké Sissoko has a knack for getting into excellent collaborations. He must just be a really nice guy. The superb composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi and Sissoko apparently refer to each other as friends with the music they create together seen as a gift from one to the other. This week’s track of the week – taken from their collaborative album Diario Mali – certainly feels this way. Not only do the kora and the piano exchange beautifully throughout the song and the album but the recording itself captures the affection felt between the two musicians. Every now and then an audible “yeaaah” can be heard as the pair build something very special.

Malian musicians have a superb record for integration, adaptation and collaboration. Vieux Farka Touré collaborated with classical instruments on the album The Touré-Rachel Collective. There, Touré used an acoustic guitar – an instrument fairly familiar with pianos and other classical instruments. The amazing thing Touré does, like his father before him, is play, or at least adapt, ngoni songs on the guitar. What Sissoko does here is use a traditional West-African instrument and integrate it straight into very dominate classical sounds. Einaudi’s piano doesn’t seem to have met the kora half-way at all, and it does not need to. Such is Sissoko’s mastery of the kora he effortlessly plays with the piano. He makes it sound like the kora belonged there all along, as if you’d heard these instruments play together a hundred times before…

…but perhaps never this well.


Ballaké Sissoko & Ludovico Einaudi – Soutoukou


Upcoming Events

The Mali Development Group will be fundraising at Stadhampton Christmas Market in south Oxfordshire on Friday the 5th of December. For further information and directions please click here.

The University of Cambridge is currently hosting a exhibition containing the work of Tim Oelman – an artist who uses hand woven tapestry and mud cloth (bogolan) to explore sign and symbol, drawing on a diversity of sources, including pre-classical European roots and modern African cultures. His guided tour will refer to the cultural identities seen in Moroccan Berber rug making and Malian bogolan. Runs till December 5th.


Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group –

To get in touch with Sam for further information please email him directly at Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

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