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Sound Travels : Malian Groove

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Thank you all for joining me for this week's Sound Travels. Today we'll get at that Malian sound-- a bluesy, desert groove that defines the sound of the region. Though most of the artists are modern, the sounds in this edition of ST draw heavily on tradition even as a few of them look longingly toward the future. For more on Malian music, click HERE...

...and for actual Malian  grooves, tune your ears to this...


Here, I have some details on the artists...

1. Mali Blues Group : Track 7 : Live From Madison & Milwaukee - What better way to start the set but with Mil-Town's own Malian Blues group (well, okay Madison too). It features Tani Diakite (Mali) on kamelon ngoni, KT Rusch on electric bass and ngoni, and Djam Vivie (Ghana) on percussion.  Traditional, hand-made West African instruments, potent electric bass-lines, and original songs create the sound. They also feature a collective of wonderful Milwaukee and Madison musicans such as: Yaya Kambaye & Jason Seed to name a few among many. Driven by powerful bass lines,  precision, roots-style percussion and blues-based ngoni technique their music is as infectious as the Touareg desert trance music and groovy as Malian blues should be. Right at home in today's set.

2. Omou Sangare : "Baba(A Love Song For Husband)" : Oumou - In 1990, Wassoulou singer Sangare became a superstar in West Africa with Moussolou, which sold an astonishing 250,000 copies (many more were likely pirated). She received much of her attention for writing and singing lyrics that specifically addressed concerns of women in modern West African society, such as the conflict between marriage and personal freedom; not a shocking subject in the Western world, perhaps, but a pioneering one for the popular music of the region. Western listeners who can't understand the lyrics will be drawn in by her mellifluous vocals and smooth, circular compositions, which use full arrangements without sounding over-produced. Both traditional instruments and electric guitars/basses are prominently used (without getting in each other's way).

3. Vieux Fark Toure : "Sangare" : Vieux Farka Touré - the self-titled debut by the son of the late international superstar and two-time GRAMMY Award-winner Ali Farka Touré. Vieux Farka Touré’s debut represents an historic passing of the torch from father to son. A highly talented guitarist, singer, songwriter, and percussionist, Vieux has crafted a global-minded style all his own. With flourishes of rock and reggae amidst Saharan Blues and traditional Malian melodies, Vieux Farka Toure ushers in the next generation of Mali blues.

4. Vieux Farka Toure : "Sangare(Nickodemus Remix)" : Remixed: UFO's Over Bamako - And as the next generation comes around a willingness to work with others on an excellent remix project based on the aforementioned debut recording. Here, Nickodemus, a producer out of NYC, has created rich rendition ready for bass-heavy speakers. Grooves like water flow through desert melody.

5. Amadou & Mariam : "Artistiya" : Dimanche a Bamako - Effortlessly funky yet full of insanely catchy tunes and with  the African core of Amadou's stinging, snaking guitar lines and Mariam's hypnotically soulful voice tweaked with touches of reggae, jazz, blues and rock. In Britain, a clutch of five star rave reviews greeted  the album's release in summer 2005. The  Evening Standard dubbed Amadou & Mariam "Africa's funkiest band."  It's now 28 years since Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia  met in Mali and started  making music together. Mariam had grown up singing at weddings and traditional festivals while the teenaged Amadou had cut his teeth as a guitarist in Les Ambassadeurs, one of West Africa's hottest and most legendary bands. Both are blind and they met in 1977 at the Institute for the Blind in Bamako, where they were both studying Braille and found themselves  performing together in the institute's Eclipse Orchestra. They married in 1980, the same year they played their first official concert together as a duo.  Good goodness!

6. Think Of One : "Ou Tu Vas?" : Camping Chaabi - Okay, so this isn't Malian, but the vibe is there. Antwerp-based band Think Of One is all about the desert groove, though it is technically a Moroccan collaboration. Now the main impulse behind this album comes from Think Of One's immoderate love for Moroccan shaâbi, that popular style which is directly derived from traditional Berber music and from its irresistible rhythms. Shaâbi songs were originally (and still are) performed at parties and weddings, mostly in an urban environment. But, for a good number of years, Shaâbi has become massively popular with the young : just listen to FM radio or lend an ear to the music blasting from car stereos, not only in Casablanca or Marrakech but also in certain areas of Brussels and Antwerp. Shaâbi is nevertheless still considered as a lesser, inferior form of music by many *, which makes Think Of One's current endeavour all the more exciting: the band's aim is to get as many of us Westerners deeply addicted to the groove of shaâbi…

7. Toumast : "Dounia" : Isshumar - The first ishumar band, founded in Libya and Algeria around Intiyeden and Ibrahim Abaraybone, is called Tinariwen. They draw their inspiration from traditional melody lines. Their militant lyrics describe their adventurous way of living and formulate vibrant calls to mobilize the younger generation that remains in the country. These itinerant musicians perform during night festivities in shantytowns.Their songs are then recorded on tapes, duplicated, exchanged or offered, spreading the word of the Ishumar in all of the touareg region, in camps as in cities.Toumast was founded in the 90's around Moussa Ag Keyna. In 1993, after years of combat and resistance, Moussa is severely wounded and evacuated to France, later joined by Aminatou Goumar. His encounter with composer, arranger and producer Dan Levy in Paris will be the starting point to the recording of the album.It is a testimony about the years of combat and disillusion experienced by the Touaregs. The songs contain topics precious to the Ishumar: the nostalgia of the nomadic life, love, the bitter taste of exile and the criticism of politics

8. Issa Bagayogo : "Fimani" : Tassoumakan - Issa Bagayogo is from the country and his first and foremost a peasant. Born in 1961 in Korin, Mali, he was discouraged from playing music though the urge was so strong opportunities couldn't be resisted. As luck would have it, he found success on the African cassette scene by combining samples with his traditional use of the kora, and "Techno Issa" was born. Three albums later finds Issa even better and the album is chock full of grooves and jams with an appeal for those who prefer traditional as well as those who like a more modern feel. "Fimani" is custom-made for the dancefloor, with a bouncy four-on-the-floor beat, brightly tuneful harmony vocals, and horns that blossom unexpectedly out of nowhere before fading away as quickly as they emerged.

9. Rokia Traore : "Nienafing" : Bowmboi - It all started with a sound inside Rokia Traore's head. The  most adventurous singer-songwriter in Africa knew that she wanted to create a new musical style that was "more modern, but still African, something  more blues and rock than my folk guitar". This may be an African album, but it sounds nothing like most 'world music' records, and has little in common with work of Rokia's great Malian compatriots like Salif Keita or Oumou Sangare "who are amazing – but I'm not a Malian traditional singer". It will appeal to blues fans, though it's not just a blues album, and it will appeal to fans to sophisticated contemporary rock, though Rokia's always thoughtful and intriguing lyrics are mostly sung in Bambara, one of the Malian languages, as evidenced on this cut.