Tag Archives: Mali

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – Ruby

This week’s track comes from a special collaboration between the two greats of Malian music, Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté. The album entitled Ali and Toumani containing this week’s track was released in 2010 and was Ali’s last studio album, it being released 4 years after his death.

Here in a review by Nonesuch Records, Diabaté talks about his relationship with Touré and the music they made together. It is taken from a conversation with and edited by Andy Morgan:

“When you’re listening to this album it’s like you’re reading a book about Ali. The album was going to be a summing up of all the albums that Ali had done in the past. It wasn’t about covering old songs just because there weren’t any new ones, no not at all. It was about revealing all the different possibilities once again. It was the very last album he made.”

So the song Ruby is the first track on the final musical adventure of Ali Farka Touré. It must be remembered that Toumani and Ali come from different parts of Mali and two very different musical backgrounds. During the recording of the album Ali was very ill and battled to keep playing. This didn’t stop him mastering the griot songs that Toumani taught him, which were a foreign style to Ali. However, to honour the great man, Ruby has been selected as this week’s song of the week. Producer Nick Gold explains why this song is important:

“This is how Ali played alone in private. If he played to himself and you happened to be in the room with him, he would touch the guitar very softly. It was beautiful to watch. But when he got into the studio, the volume was upped by 10!! But this time he didn’t do that. “Ruby” is a Bobo song that Ali had heard in San, a village on the road to his home in Niafunke. It must have been a completely new tune to Toumani. A lot of this repertoire was new to him.

My 5 year old daughter Ruby and I were sat on the floor at Ali’s feet for this. Because the kora is such a quiet instrument, you have to be very still when it’s being recorded. Any creak or breath can be heard. We held our breath through much of the song. When it was over I asked “What’s that one called?” And Ali just looked at Ruby and said, “Ruby!”

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – Ruby

 

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Tartit – Achachore I Chachare Akale

Tartit are a band from the Tombouctou Region of Mali. Tombouctou is the largest of the eight regions at 496,611 square kilometres, which makes it roughly the size of Spain. It stretches from Mali’s northern-most tip, deep in the Sahara desert, all the way down to Mali’s slim waist that marks the north-south divide. To the east of here is Tombouctou’s world-famous capital city, Timbuktu.

The band members of Tartit formed the group many miles from this region in a refugee camp in Mauritania, following the conflict in Mali in the early 1990s. The group is made up of 5 women who play the traditional instruments like the imzad whilst the 4 male members play the ngoni and electric guitar. A symbolic line-up as far as gender-equality in Africa goes and it seems that the female role in playing ‘traditional’ instruments is not a microcosm of female-oppression – the women of the band have a reputation for strong characters – though in interview it was said that it was unheard of to have a woman play ngoni. Additionally, their Wikipedia page speaks of UN-endorsed association dedicated to preserving Mali’s culture and also to develop “schools for children and economic opportunities for women”. During the recent conflict they expressed regret that it was “difficult  for this foundation to operate and function right now.  The crisis in the north has brought much suffering and deprivation to the local people.”

 

Tartit – Achachore I Chachare Akale

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Amadou and Mariam – Sénégal Fast Food

First of all we must start with an apology for the late publication of this post. Pending WordPress updates prevented it from circulating. We will be back at the usual time of 09:00 on Wednesday next week.

Amadou and Mariam are back on the Hub as creators of our track of the week for a second time. This week’s track is a exciting and jivey with an steady acoustic rhythm and accompaniments from brass and a harmonica.  There is also a Latin feel to the lyrics, provided by Manu Chao. They’re fast paced, almost rap-like, and pick up on the off-beat through out to make this song eminently danceable. However, the chorus in undeniably Malian. Its a lovely cultural mash-up of a song. The album ‘Dimanche a Bamako’ which this song originates from is an excellent album which is definitely worth a listen in its entirety. Similarly, the music video for the song creates a positive, if not typical, image of West African living and should be given a look. Though it does also include an example of the what appears to be a not-so-positive adventure in emigration to Europe.   Amadou and Mariam – Sénégal Fast Food

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 Song of the Week

Mulele Matondo Afrika & Friends – Mali La Paix

As international efforts get underway in Mali to support the reconstruction of Mali’s damaged World Heritage Sites, here at the Hub we are doing our own style of international convergence. For the first time in its history our Mali Song of the Week will be a song from outside Mali.

Now there is no need to panic, as the song is beautifully crafted and definitely has everything we know and love about Mali at the heart of it. It dates back to the dark days of early 2013  when the future of Mali was in jeopardy. The song was created by UK-based Congolese artist Mulele Matondo Afrika after he brought together an international group of London-based artists to record ‘Mali La Paix’ which means  ‘Peace in Mali’. It was written to promote peace and show solidarity with Mali.  The song is a grand collaboration of over 20 musicians and vocalists inspired by Fatoumata Diawara‘s own contribution of ‘Voices United for Mali‘. Diversity, openness and tolerance are obvious themes in ‘Mali La Paix’ with each artist contributing their own individual styles  in nearly ten different languages.
Speaking in January 2013, Mulele Matondo Afrika explains why he was motivated to respond to the crisis:

“The conflict in Mali is an issue for Africa, and for the rest of the world. I wanted to add to what Fatoumata Diawara did with ‘Voices United for Mali’ to help to raise awareness everywhere in order to promote peace in Africa. As an African, I see the war in Mali as another wound for Africa and I wanted to show solidarity with my African brothers and sisters. This time, it is Mali, but my own home, Congo, has been suffering for decades and all over Africa, there is suffering.”

He continues, painting a very vivid image of a continent:

“Africa is like the body of a person and every time there is war, Africa bleeds and she is always bleeding somewhere – someone is always wounding Africa. That is what the chorus lyrics are about.”

Mulele Matondo Afrika is one of a growing number of sophisticated, motivated and outspoken young artists from the continent that are expressing their political frustrations through their music. He is also continuing a tradition of using music as a vehicle for pan-African philosophies. His solo album ‘Prophecy’ is a shining example, and so is this week’s Song of the Week. It is inspirational stuff and makes for an even richer experience as a listener.  


 

Mulele Matondo Afrika & Friends – Mali La Paix


The song is available as a free download here

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Tinariwen – Imdiwanin ahi Tifhamam

Inspired by the Saharan storm that rolled in to dust Great Britain last week, we stick with the desert blues. Tinariwen’s newest studio album provides the music this week and the Hub are happy to see that Glastonbury festival have confirmed Tinariwen as an act at this year’s festival.

It was suggested in an earlier post that much of North American blues can owe its origins to the musicians of North Africa. But what of another great American genre: Country and Western? Now, if it is possible to a trace this back to Mali it would be quite a scoop as it is generally assumed that country music’s origins are based in Irish folk, particularly owing to the central role played by the fiddle. Other instruments central to the genre originate in other migrant populations – the Spanish guitar for example.  However one instrument, the banjo, is particularly distinctive and unique to Country music. According to this source, “the banjo, as we can begin to recognize it, was made by African slaves based on instruments that were indigenous to their parts of Africa”. Indeed, variants of the banjo have existed for centuries through-out Southern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and across the Middle- and Far-East; yet their origins appear to all come back to Africa.

So, some of the instruments most strongly associated with Country and Western originated from North Africa but that’s not quite enough to claim that the genre itself originated there. Listening closely to the many great examples of Malian blues allows us to ponder the link but that is all. But then in steps fiddle-playing New Yorker Fats Kaplin of Dead Reckoning Records who appears with Tinariwen on this week’s Track of the Week. Kaplin’s fiddle work merges into the familiar Tinariwen set-up with the greatest of ease, in fact it is barely noticeable as a cross-genre collaboration till about half-way through. It should be obvious. Interstingly, the cover picture for the new album ‘Emmaar’ – on reflection – is a typically Western scene: in the foreground is a ranch with the band with horses flashing past whilst behind them a cactus-studded frontier stretches far off into the distance, eventually merging into dry unforgiving hills. In fact, it is difficult to deduce whether the photo is of the Wild West or of the Sahel.

Perhaps that’s the point.

Tinariwen – Imdiwanin ahi Tifhamam

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Bambugu Blues

On the 24th of March ‘The Rough Guide to Mali’ was released by the world music and travel giants Rough Guides. The first track is ‘Jama Ko’ the song used here on The Hub the first time  Bassekou Kouyate was our choice for Track of the Week.

He returns again with inspiration from another ‘Rough Guide’ compilation, this time making an appearance on ‘The Rough Guide to Desert Blues’. Malian musicians usually associated with desert blues are Tinarwen, Tamikrest and Ali Farka Touré. Mali’s northern regions are where the Sahel merges into the great Sahara Desert – a truely remarkable part of the world. Mali is famous for its music but many are unaware that even the desert sings with a enormous deep hums.

Touré’s home town of  Niafunké is one of the small towns that sit as  a gateway between Bamako and the Malian South and the vast, sparsely-populated North. Bassekou Kouyate, from the southern-central Ségou region, has picked up on themes of the desert blues in ‘Bambugu Blues’ by opening with a trademark lazy guitar lick before launching into gusty, mesmeric vocals. The song sets sail on a quintessentially rolling, slumbering, desert rhythm. It continues along that path to make a truly memorable song.

 

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Bambugu Blues

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Salif Keita – Africa

It time to celebrate as Salif Keita is coming to London’s Barbican Centre on the 8th of April. What better way to celebrate than with some afrobeat from the excellent Malian musician himself, conducted in that cheesy fashion that only afrobeat can get away with, perhaps with the exception of some 80s classics.

Salif Keita is an exceptional musician, and has already appeared on the Track of the Week once before.  Live music producers Serious have been instrumental in bringing artists like Keita to perform in Britain for years. In reference to the upcoming concert they had this to say:

“Salif Keita has been at the forefront of modern Malian music for many years. Dubbed the ‘golden voice of Africa’ (fRoots), Keita has over that time extended musical frontiers and carved out a distinctive musical voice, in which rock, funk and jazz combine with the deepest West African griot traditions.”

Contrary to the focus provided here on Salif’s excitable dance beats he is an exceptional producer of emotive, beautiful and ambient music with an fantastic use of layered vocals. As Serious continue:

“In this show Salif will be exploring a new acoustic direction, evolving from his recent shows which were geared towards a heavily-amplified sound.”

As many nights in the Barbican before it, Keita – in all likelihood – is going to produce an evening of real beauty and intimacy; something really special.

But hold that thought for one moment as here is a real African anthem if there ever was one, with a cultural collage of a music video to boot. Enjoy Salif Keita’s ‘Africa’ in all its full fun-filled glory. Happy Wednesday!

 

Salif Keita – Africa

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Rokia Traoré – Mouneissa

It is time to return to a Mali Interest Hub favourite; Rokia Traoré. This week track is the title track from Rokia’s first album ‘Mouneissa‘ – the second time this album has produced a ‘Track of the Week’.

Mouneissa – the song – is a dreamy, relaxing song carried along by simple melodies. It summarises the whole album which is inculpated by the innocence of youth. As one critic writes: “Elle y déroule un climat de sensualité et de tendresse extrême (she unwraps an atmosphere of sensuality and extreme tenderness)”. Such are Rokia’s musical gifts.

Rokia Traoré – Mouneissa

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Ali Farka Touré & Corey Harris – Cypress Grove

This week’s track is to mark the unveiling of a statue of Ali Farka Touré in Bamako last weekend.  Here he joins up with American blues and reggae guitarist/vocalist Corey Harris. Ali Farka Touré once boldly asserted that the beloved American musical genre was “nothing but African”. His claim has scholarly backing too – notably from ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik. The relationship between American music and that of Africa is a truly fascinating area of study. Indeed for those of you out there who are intrigued by musical history to get you started on this subject here is a handy introductory excerpt from Gerhard Kubik’s book Africa and the Blues. Explained in the book is the general theory that:

“…the American blues were a logical development that resulted from specific processes of cultural interaction among eighteenth- to nineteenth-century African descendants in the United States, under certain economic and social conditions”.

Though it is worth adding that this ‘cultural interaction’ and ‘certain economic and social conditions’ were not always terribly pretty.

Leaving the history lesson behind we fast-forward to the 21st century. In 2002 the collaborative album ‘Mississippi to Mali‘ by Corey Harris was released. On this album Ali Farka Touré features playing under Harris’s vocals in a cover of the Skip James song Cypress Grove Blues, originally recorded in 1931.

Ali Farka Touré & Corey Harris – Cypress Grove