Tag Archives: Rail Band

Djelimady Tounkara – Fanta Bourama: Mali Song of the Week

Song Of The Week? On a Friday?!

Yes – apologies for the delay. But trust me, this one is worth the wait. Boggled that Tounkara’s acoustic-guitar spectacular hadn’t been a SOTW already, it was time to set the record straight. It is equally astonishing that a man of such accolade has only been plucked out once to provide our weekly musical highlight.

All of that changes today with ‘Fanta Bourama’, the opening track of both his 2011 album ‘Solon Kono‘ and the highly enjoyable complication disc ‘The Rough Guide to African Guitar Legends‘. The song’s opening realises a bridge between Morocco and Spain – a structure which in engineering terms remains a fantasy yet is a long-time cultural reality. Each pluck of a string strips down to that quintessential Mediterranean sound, fusing two continents together in that ever-rolling exchange initiated by the Berbers with their invasion of Spain nearly 1300 years ago.

Tounkara, a member of Mali’s prestigious and ground-breaking Rail Band, has added his own magic to the mix. The Rail Band exemplified the West African 1970s affinity for Iberian, Cuban and Latin music. Tounkara’s supreme talent with an acoustic guitar made him the best equipped to delve deep into this world and allowed him to emerge with the most exquisite results. It was a great shame then that he was unable to take up his invitation to join the gathering musical grandmasters in Cuba in that super-group which was to become the Buena Vista Social Club.

Not that he needed it. So busy collaborating, inventing and performing was Tounkara he only got round to producing his first studio album in 2001, producing several others since. With ‘oversight’ being the surprise theme of the week, each of these gifts to the world will be meticulously combed from now on. You can be sure to hear some more of his gems before long.


Djemilady Tounkara – Fanta Bourama


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

Rail Band ft. Magan Ganessy – Kibaru

This week’s song comes from the legendary Malian super-group the Rail Band. One of the most popular acts in Malian musical history, the Rail Band rode the rising wave of African music’s mid-20th Century obsession with Latin – and especially Cuban – influences. According to the Band’s Wikipedia page this trend started in the Congo in the 1940s, but did not emerge in West Africa till later. This made the Rail Band one of the pioneers of Afro-Latin fusion in Mali. It is a musical genre which is having something of a renaissance in Europe and America, with 60s and 70s African funk being frequently developed by DJs into hip-hop and house sets.

To our knowledge, three of the Rail Band’s previous members have been present in the Song of the Week already, Salif Keita being the most famous of them. He left to join the rival Ambassadeurs group early in the project’s timeline however. Luckily, superb guitarist and Rail Band legend Djelimady Tounkara joined before Salif Keita departed, and they were able to share some industrious time together. Nainy Diabaté, another enormously popular Malian musician, also developed her career with the band.

This week we have one direct from the group proper that certainly shows off its Latin influences extensively. Some outstanding guitar work in the mid-section too. The Latin aspect is fitting in light of the close of an truly excellent World Cup Finals in Brazil last weekend. Enjoy.

Rail Band ft. Magan Ganessy – Kibaru