Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba - Jama Ko

Malian legend gets political

Few records could have been
produced in more challenging
circumstances than this third
LP by the Malian Ngoni
maestro. Begun on the day
rebel troops staged a coup
just half a mile away from the
studio in downtown Bamako,
the recording was subject to
power cuts and daily curfews.
Worse, with the formerly
peaceful country plunged into
crisis and hardline Islamist
groups in the north posing
the threat of a nationwide
ban on music, the very future
of Malian song was plunged
into doubt.

Kouyate responded by
recording this riotous
celebration of Malian culture
as a call for unity in the face
of oppression. It’s a more
invigorated and eclectic work
than his previous efforts
– and, inevitably, more
political. The Latin-flavoured
Sinaly and the insistent
Bhundu Boys-esque Segu
Jajiri both recount tales of
Mali’s historical resistance to
forced Islamisation, while the
title track and Kele Magni
are pleas for peace and
tolerance. Elsewhere,
Zoumana Tereta provides
indigenous violin and raw
vocals on the spare, skeletal
blues of Mali Koori (cotton
song) while wife Amy Sacko
turns in a scintillating vocal
performance on the plaintive
and heartfelt Wagadou; less
impressive is Taj Mahal’s
guest turn on Poye 2 which
feels contrived and out of
place by comparison.
Kouyate has recorded more
consistent albums than this
but, as a statement of
defiance, Jama Ko could be
his most important work.
 

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Out Here | OH 021

Reviewed by Paul Bowler
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