Tag Archives: Africa Express

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ghostpoet ft. Doucora – Season Change

Malian drum-group Doucora appear here with British vocalist Obaro Ejimiwe, better known as Ghostpoet. The song came together as a result of the trip to Mali made by Damon Albarn and others including Brian Eno to create the album Maison Des Jeunes, released as part of his on-going Africa Express project. Its a project that seems to have plenty of life in it, with a recent show at Roskilde festival in Denmark seemingly on course to go on forever, beyond the 5 hour set that had already occurred. The music only stopped when Albarn was physically carried off stage much to the jovial dismay of the crowd, who had probably seen enough.

In this week’s song the legendary ‘talking drum’ the tamani takes centre stage away from Ghostpoet’s vocals towards the end of the song. The drums save the song from being rather ordinary and the tamani solo is the song’s zenith. It displays the drum as a fully tuned instrument, enabling the player to ‘talk’ and share messages through the drum, however throughout the song the tamani can be heard melodically beating along in the background. On what I can only presume is the band’s Facebook page they explain that using the example of their song ‘Maraka’, where the tamani is deployed to “intervene” in a fight between two young men. The drums talks by mimicking the sounds and structure of speech and works excellently in ‘Seasons Change’ as a way to heighten the mood, throwing down the gauntlet to the dusty tones of Ghostpoet.

Informing the world of the wonders of this instrument appears to be a clear aim for Doncora. The dream, the Facebook page states, is to develop the world’s musical understanding through this ‘sacred’ instrument. The sound is captivating and is remarkably engaging for just a drum. But that’s what makes the tamani so special; it makes us completely rethink the purpose and potential of percussion.



Ghostpoet ft. Doucora – Season Change

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Songhoy Blues – Soubour

This week’s track of the week heralds the return of the Africa Express – a collective of African and world musicians led by Damon Albarn. No longer a project of one-off festival performances or extraordinary, train-commandeering super tours but now in the form of a début album entitled “Maison Des Jeunes” which was recorded in Mali in October in just 7 days.

On the Africa Express website it is explained that “Africa Express musicians and producers set up a temporary studio in a city youth club and worked with a new wave of contemporary Malian musicians to complete the album in one week. The club, situated on the banks of the Niger river and known locally as Maison Des Jeunes, became the venue for a week of discovery, collaboration, music-making and live performances.”  With them was a BBC crew that captured the magic as it unfolded, documenting the creative industry of up-and-coming Malian talents working alongside some world greats like Brian Eno and Salif Keita. Since mid-October the BBC have produced two decent reports into how the Africa Express’s arrival serves as a significant milestone for the regeneration of Mali’s music scene in the wake of the conflict.

This week’s track is the result of a collaboration between Timbuktu indie band Songhoy Blues and Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner. In their first ever studio session they produced the track ‘Soubour’ and if this racy, adolescent stormer is anything to go by, the rest of the album will be a treat – just check out the list of other contributors.

So, as the place to record its first album, why did the Africa Express choose Mali? For many it is about solidarity. In recognition of the enormous strife that has afflicted Mali’s creative industries over the past two years many foreign artists have been driven by a sense of duty to revive it. For Malian artists it is a home-coming parade of sorts. Many, like legendary Malian guitarist Afel Boucum, thought he would never return to his homeland.

Same is the story for Songhoy Blues. They formed in response to the occupation that saw secular music banned. But the confidence oozing from a commanding riff like the one in ‘Soubour’ suggests that their contribution to Maison des Jeunes is something more than a celebration. It suggests gusty defiance and pride in the fact that they, with many others, stood up and fought their own battle for Mali’s and its music – and won.

Songhoy Blues – Soubour



There will be a “Maison De Jeunes” launch party in East London on the 9th of December. Should be one for any music-lovers diary. For information and tickets see: http://www.rockfeedback.com/concerts/detail/africa-express-album-launch-maison-des-jeunes Hope to see you there.