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Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Ba Power

James Nadal By

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African music is on an unprecedented upward spiral in terms of popularity and global recognition. Each country within Africa is subdivided into local provinces and territories, each with their own cultural traits and traditions. Mali, of course is no exception and has been in the forefront of this musical revival. Bassekou Kouyate is a prominent representative of Malian music, due in part to his association and recordings with premier musicians as Ali Farka Toure, and popular rock and world artists, but largely for his own efforts as leader of Ngoni Ba. Since their first release in 2006, "Segu Blue," the group has been on an incessant touring schedule and also produced two more highly rated albums, "I Speak Fula" in 2006 and "Jama Ko" in 2010.

Presently heralded as Mali's musical superstar, on Ba Power , Kouyaté takes the traditional instrument the ngoni into afro-rock territory, complete with distortion and wah-wah pedals, and there is no looking back. This is very much a family affair as he brought several of his sons into the ensemble, and his wife Amy Sacko handles the lead vocals. Sacko has an impressive resume in her own right, with outstanding recordings with Leni Stern, among others.

It is almost impossible to separate Malian music from political, social, and religious themes or situations, as this is the music of griots, or messengers of the people. Kouyaté has the innate ability to draw from deep ancestral wells for inspiration, as well as contemporary struggles and strife for motivation. Sacko as singer takes on a pivotal role, as she delivers the message convincingly and with abundant elegance.

Ba Power is a striking new direction not only for Kouyaté, but for Malian music as well. With his exposure to a global audience and to rock, jazz and blues musicians, he has plugged in and turned it up. This is no longer primitive tribal music, the message of the griots might be timeless, but the messenger is very much a modern musician on a relentless mission to get this music heard.

Track Listing: Siran Fen; Musow Fanga; Abé Sumaya; Ayé Sira Bla; Borongoli ma Kununban; Waati; Fama Magni; Te Duniya Laban; Bassekouni.

Personnel: Bassekoue Kouyaté: lead ngoni; Amy Sack: lead vocals; Abou Sissoko: medium ngoni; Mamadou Kouyaté: bass ngoni, backing vocals; Moctar Kouyaté: calabash; Mahamadou tounkara: yabara, tamani, tmaba; Bina Diabaté: medium ngoni ba; Moustafa Kouyate: medium ngoni.

Title: Ba Power | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Glitterbeat

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