Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Boubcar Traoré – Benidiagnamogo

Back in 2003, Robert Plant – best known for his incredible voice as lead singer for Led Zeppelin – made a journey to the Malian Sahara to perform at the Festival Au Desert. Plant has travelled and experimented with all kinds of world music during his 30-plus year career as a solo artist. Working with a great range of American, European and African artists, Plant has refused to wallow in former glories and has instead kicked on, showing great respect and humility for his own achievements is reference to music the world over. His trip to Mali and his respect of the country since appear to fit neatly into this world view. Reflecting on his trip, he said it was;

“….a journey that could only reinforce the power and the great gift of music across and between cultures. Sharing outside of language. A world where, for awhile at least, borders, boundaries and barriers once again fell away…as it was long ago.”

Whilst he was on there Robert Plant made video recordings of everywhere he went, sometimes deferring camera-pointing responsibilities to his son Logan. The videos were in no way shot in a egotistical way as you may expect from a rock n’ roll front man. In fact, they are the complete opposite. He released the videos as a mini-series where in the opening episode Plant himself only really features once, and even then he can only be seen unflatteringly asleep on a plane. The series is instead an observation on Malian life. The cities, the journeys, the dunes, the people and of course, the music. Plant’s own affinity with blues and country must have set his mind whirring as he indulged into the country’s musical life blood and his artistry allowed him to capture and compose it exquisitely.

So this week’s song is a tip of the hat to Mr Plant who so respectfully and completely portrays Malian society with him – with all his musical prowess – playing the character of the novice and humble observer. The opening sequence of the video features Boubcar Traoré’s song Benidiagnamogo. A great, if not strikingly familiar choice for Plant – does anyone else hear Bron-Yr-Aur?


Boubcar Traoré – Benidiagnamogo

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