Tag Archives: Ballaké Sissoko

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ballaké Sissoko – Badjourou

People of Oxford! If there are any of you out there with a Socials - Oxford (1)spare evening tonight then head on to the Phoenix Picturehouse at 6pm for your opportunity to see ‘They Will Have to Kill Us First‘ the film about Mali’s fearless, insatiable musicians that won’t give up their country without a fight. With an original score, its a must see for any Malian music lover. Not to be missed.

For those not in and around Oxford do not fret. As well as a list of other screenings there are other things to keep your senses entertained. On the Hub we are particularly fond of pleasing your ears and as well as this stunning piece of music from kora-mastermind Ballaké Sissoko you could also turn your attention to the latest instalment of Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’ on the Empire of Mali – a fascinating and wholly under-appreciated period of history. Mali’s Empire at its pinnacle was as big as southern Europe and according to the show was the biggest African empire ever.

If you don’t have 45 minutes spare to listen to the show now UK listeners can download the conversation to listen to later or whilst out and about. Due to its relative obscurity as a historical topic, the first task of the gathered academics is to get the listener up to speed with the scale and majesty of this Empire – no easy task. For some details there is simply no comparison with any other point in history. The language makes it impossible to imagine anything other than gleaming stacks of gold, great armies, riches in textiles, architecture and jewellery. And not just these material goods, but also the authority of grandeur in science, the arts and religion; all oozing control and command for the Empire’s ruling class to wield. The strumming and plucking of Sissoko in ‘Badjourou’ harks to a medieval royal court. The steady march, the flowing and insatiable beauty. Untold luxury in the desert – for 2000km from the Atlantic to the heart of Africa. For 400 years.

 

Ballaké Sissoko – Badjourou

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

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

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ballaké Sissoko – Famade

Africa cultural assets are in demand. African music, fashion and art are excelling in all corners of the globe. Even its TV personalities are taking over; this week South African comedian Trevor Noah was unveiled as Jon Stewart’s successor on the hugely popular comedy-satire programme The Daily Show.

Mali’s part in this blooming global African identity has overwhelmingly been its music, as we all know. However, Mali’s contributions and interactions with the world of art and culture is not exclusively musical. The city of Bamako is home to Ballaké Sissoko, master kora player and this week’s Artist of the Week. Bamako is also home to legendary photographer Malick Sidibé. Born in 1935 in what was then French Sudan, Sidibé, known as the “Eye of Bamako”, still resides in the city today. Sidibé’s work is famous for exploring, documenting and capturing the cultural and social change that occurred in immediate post-colonial Mali in the 1960s & 70s. He did this through thousands of photographs and drawings, famously in black and white. Sidibé’s work was not immediately recognised internationally, though today it is very valuable and some of his work went on sale in London this week. He more or less completed his major work by the 1980s yet is still an active visual artist – recently completing a fashion shoot for the New York Times.

In some ways, it sounds like a similar story to that of Mali’s music: once it was discovered by the world, especially its desert blues, people were compelled by its modernity and amazed by its history. The most boggling part of all is how familiar all African art seems. It leads us to think that the last 50, 60 years has not been a process of discovery but of reconnection. With art no longer oppressed and contorted through colonial dialogue into exotica, independent Africa is now playing catch-up and perhaps it is finally getting up to to speed. Artists like Malick Sidibé and Ballaké Sissoko, particularly for his ground-breaking collaborative work, will be admired for years to come, and we hope will be remembered for being just the beginning.

 

Ballaké Sissoko – Famade

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

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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.

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Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information please email him directly at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. 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.