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A Sonic Tour of Mali: 8 Amazing Videos, Songs, and Artists

Economically speaking, Mali is one of the poorest countries on earth. Culturally, it is one of the richest. Bluesy, hypnotic guitar, soaring vocals, mind-bending melodies – Malian music is some of the most powerful in the world. Here are a few extraordinary songs and artists from Mali. Many of the videos are gorgeous in their own way as well. Enjoy.

Ali Farka Toure (RIP) and Boubacar “KarKar” Traore. Two Malian heavyweights perform Boubacar’s “Diarabi” in a stunning setting. These two guitarists have helped craft a brand of music that is part blues, part Arabic, and part Mande. Tell me you can’t feel the warm wind of the desert when you watch this?

Amadou & Mariam’s “M’bife” – Mariam lost her vision when she was five years old because of untreated measles. Amadou went blind when he was 16. After meeting at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, they got married and began making some of the most beautiful music in the world. When Mariam’s voice comes in I need to sit down.

Oumou Sangare’s “Yala” – Oumou Sangare is a songstress from Wassoulou, an area south of Bamako. This is the region of traditional Malian hunter’s music. If you visit Awesome Tapes From Africa, you can find a ton of Malian hunter’s music. In the video, amazing photos of post-independence Mali taken by famous Malian photographer Malick Sidibe.

Sekouba Traore. This is raw. Sekouba with his kora comes across as the most heavily armed man in the video. This is another example of hunter’s music.

Vieux Farka Toure with Toumani Diabite “Diabite” – Toumani is a Malian giant and Vieux, son of Ali Farka Toure, is fast becoming one. A conversation between kora and guitar, this song is unreal.

More Vieux Farka Toure. I have seen him play twice in Washington DC (he tours Europe and North America somewhat regularly). The most recent time, you could hear the crowd gasp after he ripped off a guitar line. Even Vieux himself looked surprised at what he was playing. Brilliant, explosive guitar work. He is nicknamed the Hendrix of the Sahara.

Rokia Traore’s “Mouneissa.” If you ever want to lure me into a trap, play this song. I will follow. Stunning voice and imagery.

Mamou Sidibe’s “Tounga” – The real reason I’m going to Mali is to stalk Mamou Sidibe. I love her voice. I love this song. I love this video.

You can download audio from any youtube clip from dirpy.com for free, but I would encourage you to support these artists if you are able. Between Itunes, Amazon, and Mondomix (a world music site), you can find all of these artists.

If you have any artists or songs from Mali that you would like to share, put it in the comments!

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Maria October 2, 2011, 8:16 pm

    Hello Phil,
    I read your posts regularly, I love them, and that is maybe because I am in love with Mali. It is a platonic love as I have never been there yet!!! but the music from Mali has captured me since I first heard it a few years ago.
    My name is Maria I live in Tenerife and, the first time I heard of Festival au Desert was in 2004, and ever since then I have been wanting to go to the Festival, it is an atraction I can not describe.
    I wonder if you are going to be there january 2012 and if you have any tips on how to get there. I have traveled alone in South East Asia, but I dont really want to travel alone in Western Africa.
    Anyway have a great trip to your next destination and keep living/traveling ;). I´ll love to hear from you. Saludos

    • phil October 3, 2011, 10:21 am

      Hi Maria, Thanks for your kind words. I will be there this January. If you are concerned about traveling alone, you can always join a group or tour company. http://www.festivaldesert-hub.net/ has a number of them that are approved by the festival operators. Also, feel free to email me at phil dot paoletta at gmail dot com. Hope to see you there!

  • Maria October 3, 2011, 7:04 pm

    Thanks Phil for your reply !! I will be looking into the site you sent me.
    I hope to see you there also !

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