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Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Nainy Diabaté – Farafina Mousso

This week’s track comes from a Malian griot so naturally is traditionally African in feel (click here for more information on griots). Nainy Diabaté is a Malian music legend with 11 albums out in the Malian market and a career history that includes performing with the renowned Mali Rail Band. She was one of the first Malian musicians to appear on Malian television and to break through into the European music scene with performances in France, Spain and Switzerland in the 1980s.

Though not brought up in a household of full-time musicians, her griot ancestry has prevailed with a helping hand from her mother’s interest in Mandingue music. Nainy started from a young age and claims to be mostly self-taught. Like many griots before her and in keeping with the important role music plays in Malian civil society her music has strong political and cultural themes including poverty and the problems facing women and children. In a recent interview Nainy also showed that she takes the leadership aspects of her griot status seriously by saying:

“Je remercie tous ceux qui m’aiment et qui me soutiennent. Je souhaite que le Mali sorte de cette impasse que nous vivons. Que tous les maliens se donnent la main pour reconstruire notre Maliba. Parce que, le Mali est un pays d’hospitalité, de dignité, de paix, de « sinankunya » et de solidarité. 

Que le bon Dieu par sa grâce, bénisse le Mali. Amina!”


“I thank all those who love me and support me. I hope that out of this impasse Mali we live. Malian all join hands to rebuild our Maliba. Because Mali is a country of hospitality, dignity, peace, “sinankunya” and solidarity. 

That God by his grace, bless Mali. Amina!” (Translated by Google Translate)



Nainy Diabate – Farafina Mousso


Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Damon Albarn,  Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & Friends – Makelekele

A really potent song this week as we stray back to 2002 and the collaborative album put together by Damon Albarn alongside prominent Malian musicians Afel Bocoum and Toumani Diabaté. ‘Makelekele’ is a racy and punchy song, similar to the song ‘Soubour’ by Songhoy Blues. It oozes imagery of the Africa of the imminent future. Youthful, colourful, headstrong. Full of life and potential.

Few references allude to the origin of the word ‘Makelekele’. It could refer to the district of the Congolese city of Kinshasa – and by looking at the other song titles from the album ‘Mali Music‘ this theory is just about plausible. Songs entitled ‘Tennessee Hotel’, ‘Spoons’ and ‘4am at Touamani’s’ are all equally obscure but still allude to some sort of initial inspirational spark – a moment where all these musicians came together to build up a small idea. Yet this is the nature of successful collaborative projects – ideas can extrude from anywhere and you run with it. The best ones become songs.

Whatever the original intentions for ‘Makelekele’ it is still very fun listening.

Damon Albarn, Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & Friends – Makelekele