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Music in West Africa: Mali Part II

Click here for part I of this series.

The first post of the series was loaded with Wassoulou singers. There will be a few more in this post to go with the mystical music of Northern Mali that I didn’t get to last time.

Oumou Sangare

Another Wassoulou songstress who could tear a building down with her voice. In the previous post, I directed your attention to a few lesser known Wassoulou stars. Oumou, on the other hand, is a big deal. She performs internationally, she is an outspoken critic of gender inequality, and she is an entrepreneur – she started and still runs the Hotel Wassoulou in Bamako.


Wow. Beautiful, patient version of this song. A slow burner, you would do well to take a few minutes and watch this start to finish.


Yeah, pretty much love everything here, video included. Oumou’s voice, smooth as ever.

Mamou Sidibe

I joked in the musical tour of Mali post that I was planning on traveling to Mali in order to stalk Mamou Sidibe. I didn’t expect to actually meet her. Then, in Bamako, strolling past the Palais de la Culture one evening, I heard her singing. She was playing a free concert. It turned out to be one of the best shows I saw on the entire trip. Towards the end of the show, Mamou came in to the crowd and ladled raw milk into our mouths from a calabash. You can see her doing this at a different show in the video below (about 50 seconds in).


After her show, I waited for the crowd to leave and then introduced myself. We greeted each other in Bambara and then she asked for my last name. When I told her it was Sangara (at this point I had assumed a Dogon last name), she called me “petit dogon” (little dogon) and rattled off a number of insults I did not understand. I called her a bean eater. We both laughed and thanked each other. To understand these insults, read this post on cousinage.


Straight from Mali television. And now for a detour to Northern Mali.

Ali Farka Toure (RIP)

I have written about Ali Farka Toure previously (here). He crafted powerful, mystical guitar music. He frequently advised not to use his tuning after midnight because it would raise spirits. I met Ali Farka’s family in Niafunke and I was fortunate to hang out with his son, Vieux Farka Toure, a rising star worldwide, at his home in Bamako. They were all more than generous. They also happen to be incredible musicians.


“Hawa Dolo” – One of my favorite Ali Farka songs. Listening to this song out of a cellphone on the pinasse ride to Niafunke was one of the many highlights of that journey. And I love this version. The accompanying guitar is out of tune and Ali alternates between reveling in the song’s melody and expressing his displeasure with his band-mate.


The same song, but this time with Toumani Diabate, Mali’s most well known Kora player. Gorgeous.

Ami Wassidje

You may have heard of Ali Farka Toure. He won several grammies and toured internationally. But there is a lot of Sonrai music from Northern Mali that remains undiscovered by international audiences. I introduce you to Ami Wassidje.


Ami’s voice is the perfect medium for the unique tones of Sonrai. Enjoy the simple but elegant dancing, typical of Northern Mali.


Also pre-recorded with lip syncing, still a joy to listen to. I love her headband.

More to come. If you have a minute, Sam and I would love your help for a project at Yes, this is Possible. We will be holding conversations with a camel named Clyde and we are taking reader questions on any number of topics. If you have a question you would like to ask of Clyde, go here and put it in the comments.

Till next time…

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic February 2, 2011, 1:57 pm

    These are so beautiful! I probably never would have found them otherwise, so thanks for sharing. :)

    • phil February 2, 2011, 3:25 pm

      Hey Christy, Glad you are enjoying them! I love the Renaissance Faire photos!!

  • Jim February 4, 2011, 4:45 am

    Bookmarked this for more visits. Music from Mali fascinates me ever since I came across a CD of Ali Farkre and Ry Cooder playing together, and yes I have Vieux in my collection also.

    • phil February 4, 2011, 2:47 pm

      Jim, awesome. Glad to hear you’ve heard Ali Farka and Vieux. His work with Ry Cooder is incredible. Hopefully you get turned on to some more Malian artists in this series. B well, Phil

  • Tran February 4, 2011, 12:47 pm

    I am new to your site and really enjoyed this post. Thanks for this list of new musicians to follow.

    • phil February 4, 2011, 2:50 pm

      Hey,
      Glad you’re enjoying it! Thanks for the comment! B well, Phil

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