World Music Network
Mali is the crown jewel of West Africa – a vast, magnificent country with ancient musical traditions and many of the continent’s best loved musicians. From Wasulu songstress Oumou Sangare and the rocking desert blues of Tinariwen, to the acoustic blues of BBC Award winner Bassekou Koyate and the international stars Amadou & Mariam The Rough Guide To The Music Of Mali explores this thriving and evolving musical dynasty
Bassekou Kouyate is one of the best-known ngoni players in the country and has collaborated with myriad musicians worldwide. His album Segu Blue won the best album award in this year’s BBC World Music Awards. The release also features a collaboration of two of Mali’s greatest musicians, the late Ali Farka Touré (guitar) and Toumani Diabate (kora), recorded using a mobile studio in the Hotel Mandé, on the banks of the River Niger. Son of Ali Farka Touré, Vieux Farka Touré was deeply influenced by the music of his father. At first, his father forbade him to play music — he wanted him to become a soldier instead. But he enrolled at the National Arts Institute in Bamako against his father’s wishes, where his talent flourished. Ali Farka’s long-awaited approval of his son’s chosen path is reflected in the fact that his final recordings are on Vieux’s album, this being one of them. Also featuring, Afel Bocoum, a nephew of Ali Farka Touré formed his own group, Alkibar but the collaboration between him and his uncle lasted some thirty years. ‘Ali Farka’, taken from the 2006 album Niger, is a tribute to the man Afel affectionately called ‘the boss’.
Amadou & Mariam met in at the Institute for the Blind in Bamako. Amadou had been a guitarist in Les Ambassadeurs and Mariam was a singer at weddings and traditional festivals. The records they made reached the ears of producer extraordinaire, Manu Chao, in Paris, and impressed Chao offered to produce their next album - Dimanche À Bamako was the result. It has now sold close to 500,000 copies around the world and is still gaining momentum. Les Ambassadeurs Internationales formed in 1971 and rivalled the other major dance band of the time, Super Rail Band du Buffet Hôtel de la Gare. In 1973, in response to Mory Kante joining and taking over as lead singer, Salif Keita left the Super Rail Band and joined Les Ambassadeurs with guitarist Kante Manfila. This created an even greater rivalry between the bands and uproar among his fans. A founder member of Les Ambassadeurs Keletigui Diabate, represented here with his take on ‘Summertime’, is a master of the Mande balafon (xylophone), one of West Africa’s oldest instruments, and he has been a huge contributor to Malian music over more than forty years.
Legendary Oumou Sangare’s roots are in the Wasulu region. The Wassoulou style of music draws heavily from ancient traditions and female singers have always been considered its great stars. Oumou’s voice is soaring, her stage presence unforgettable, and she is a fearless spokesperson for women’s rights. Rokia Trarore, another legendary female artist, belongs to the Bamana ethnic group, which adheres to an endogamous caste system whereby, traditionally, musicians (jeliya) are born into the profession.
Much acclaimed Tinariwen’s leader, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, is credited with creating the modern, rock style of Tamashek music. The band formed in 1979 and developed their music in military camps set up in Libya by Colonel Gaddafi to train Tamashek men how to fight. Their track is taken from their 2004 album Amassakoul, which led them to worldwide acclaim.
Also featuring in this compilation are Babani Kone, Habib Koité, Boubacar Trarore, Issa Bagayogo and Kandia Kouyate