Sahara Soul: Bassekou Kouyaté, Sidi Touré, Tamikrest,
Glasgow, Royal Concert Hall,
27th Jan 2013
Mali is one of the first country’s you think of when you think “African music”. The amount of amazing groups / artists that have come out of it is simply phenomenal. Sadly Mali is also in the news a lot atm because of the internal strife going on there. This tour, Sahara Soul, came together to demonstrate musics power to bring people together.
A cold night in Glasgow’s Celtic Connections was the setting for Sahara Soul, featuring a trio of artists from worn-torn Mali.
All the artists have advanced the cause of World Music through their collaborations with Western artists like Damon Albarn, John Paul Jones and Paul McCartney amongst others but it was good to witness the key integrity in the live performance which was routed in their tradition with only a musical nod to the West.
Bassekou Kouyaté, his band Ngoni Ba, Sidi Touré and from the country’s furthest flung corner the hypnotic Tamikrest enchanted the audience with an intricately woven musical tapestry.
The title of Bassekou’s new album ‘Jama ko’ is literally translated as a Gathering and reflects the inclusive nature of Malian music.
He explained the album’s title as follows ,”‘Jamo ko’ means a ‘big gathering of people’. There are over 90% Muslims in Mali, but our form of Islam here has nothing to do with a radical form of Sharia: that is not our culture. We have been singing praise songs for the Prophet for hundreds of years. If the Islamists stop people making music they will rip the heart out of Mali’.
The highlight of his set was his use of the musical instrument ngoni which is the banjo’s forebearer which he integrated into the music of his Bamana tribe from Southern Mali.
The heartbeat of this music came from the song ‘Ne Me Fatique Pas’ and the latin flavoured ‘Sinaly’.
From the other end of Mali the young Tuareg outfit Tamikrest were a potent mixture of dub beats, desert blues and psychedelic rock.
The real point of their live set is to build the music up to where it evokes a trance like state and propels the listener into the Saharan desert.
Their current album “Toumastin” was heavily represented with ‘Tizarate’ a particular highlight.
The night ended with a multi-layered musical set from Sidi Touré who interweaved old and new songs from the Songhai folk tradition.
The closing songs with all the artists featured speaks volumes for the state of the music scene in Mali. The country might be gripped by war and destruction but perhaps music might be one of the roads to recovery.
The Tamikrest and Bassekou Kouyate albums are worth investigating with the latter co-produced by Howard Bilerman [Arcade Fire, Godspeed, Coeur de Pirate etc.]
All words by Jim Lawn