Mali is one of the largest countries in Africa and is known for its gold. Another of the West African nation’s key exports is musical talent, and specifically, singer-guitarists who specialize in an art form defined as ‘Malian Blues’, or ‘Desert Blues’. One of the most renowned exponents of this genre is Ali Farka Toure, a man ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone’s list of the world’s top 100 guitarists. Though he left us in 2006, his son Vieux has ably picked up where his father left off, taking his dad’s unique mixture of the blues and traditional Malian music to the world. I attended his show a few years back, and to date I’ve never seen anyone pinch and strum notes out of a guitar like Vieux Farka Toure.
But it’s not all about the Toures. Celebrated afro-pop icon Salif Keita is also from Mali. But today we want to throw the spotlight on another desert blues stalwart, Boubacar Traore. As a kid he was known as ‘Kari Kari’ for being an over-elaborate dribbler when he played soccer. This artistry never left him, it only moved from his feet to his fingers when he taught himself the guitar back in the 60s. But despite getting immense recognition all over Mali into the seventies, Traore only started getting the international recognition his talents deserved in the 90s when he released his debut album ‘Mariama’. This album derived its name from a traditional ditty sang in his hometown Kayes in Western Mali. According to Traore, it is a song originally sang by a bird to warn a girl named Mariama of the impending death of her mother. And all he did was flavor it with his guitar.
For his new album ‘Mbalimaou‘, the 72 year-old has given this song a new lease of life. Helping Traore on this number is Ballake Sissoko who is revered across Europe and beyond for his wizardry on the kora.
Sit back and enjoy this beautiful conversation between guitar and kora bringing out the rich sounds of Mali.
Miami Based, Internationally Known