A tidal wave of Malian music surged upon the eastern coastal cities of the United States last month and, lucky for us, it hit Washington D.C. with beautiful, overwhelming force. Amadou and Miriam performed a killer, June 18th concert at the 9:30 Club followed by the female-led Tuareg group called Tartit on July 29th. Then the real surge in September crested with performances by Bassekou Kouyaté, Sidi Touré, Mamadou Kelly, Leila Gobi, with Vieux Farka Touré.
All of these musicians are part of the “Caravan for Peace Tour,” a global concert series sponsored by the Timbuktu-based music festival, Festival au Désert. This tour “in exile” has been underway since the 2012 coup d’état in Mali that forced many musicians to flee for fear of persecution. The coup also forced the country’s two, high-profile international music festivals to cancel; the Festival sûr le Niger and the Festival au Désert. The latter cancelled in Timbuktu but then re-invented itself as an international tour or “caravan” of prominent Malian musicians who would play for peace to return to their homeland.
Today’s post features Bassekou Kouyaté. He performed with his group N’goni Ba at the Atlas in Washington on September 20th. The following morning Bassekou and most of the group (a few stayed behind to sleep in at the hotel) came to the Voice of America as my special guests on Music Time in Africa.
In the video clip below, N’goni Ba performs three songs: “Mali Ko” (“Oh, Mali”) and “Ne Me Fatigue Pas” (“Don’t Tire Me”) are from their latest, 2013 CD entitled Jama Ko, and “Ngoni Fola” (“The N’goni Player”). Bassekou speaks enthusiastically about his recent induction into the Afropop Hall of Fame in New York on September 19th which coincided with the inauguration of Mali’s new President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK). He’s also excited about his chance at another Grammy nomination this year. Oh, and make sure you check out his use of the wah-wah and other pedal effects on his n’goni!
In addition to this Studio 4 session with Bassekou, my future blog posts will feature others from the Caravan for Peace Tour: Tartit, Mamadou Kelly, and Noura Mint Seymali (from Mauritania). Fortunately the inauguration of Mali’s new president has brought great potential for peace and unity in the country and for the return of its talented musicians. Both major music festivals, the Festival au Désert and the Festival sûr le Niger are back on the books for 2014. The Caravan for Peace tour will hopefully and forever be a one-hit-wonder.
Special thanks to Matt Greenhill from FLi Artists FolkLore International for serving as interpreter.