Music in West Africa: Mali Part IV

by phil on February 14, 2011

Last one on Mali. If you need to get caught up: Part I, Part II, and Part III. The previous post took us to the far north of Mali. This post is not regionally based. Here you will find a few artists that I didn’t fit in earlier.

Boubacar Traore

Boubacar “Kar Kar” Traore was born in Kayes, Mali, a town widely considered to be the hottest continuously-inhabited town in Africa (it is referred to as the “pressure cooker of Africa”). Perhaps the furnace of Kayes christened him with amazing guitar playing abilities. He began his career playing celebratory songs of post-independence. Now he mostly sings love songs to his wife, who passed away in the late 80′s. His voice, mildly ravaged by cigarette smoke, beautifully carries these songs of longing.



Little in the way of video, but this song above is far and away my favorite kar kar song.


It’s ok to feel enchanted.

Baba Salah

Really popular in Mali right now, Baba Salah is a Songhai musician with tight guitar chops and a voice so smooth. I heard him all over, but once I got north of Mopti I found myself in true Baba Salah territory.


01 Mo Futu by lionsinthetiles

Salif Keita

Upon birth, Salif Keita’s chances of becoming an internationally known Malian pop singer were slim to nil. He is a descendant of the first Malian emperor, Sundiata Keita. In Mali, a royal heritage typically precludes one from becoming a singer or musician as those professions are reserved for the griot caste. In addition to this, Salif Keita was born with albinism. At a young age, he was cast out of his family and his community – in many parts of Africa, albinos are considered bad luck. Despite this, he has become one of the biggest world music stars on the planet.



This song could use less production, but it is energetic and Salif’s voice is stunning as always.

03 Toura Makan by lionsinthetiles

Recorded with Kante Manfila, this song is from a record known as The Lost Album. Salif’s unrestrained vocals, combined with the measured balafon and backing chorus, makes this track a real treasure.

Next time, it will be on to Senegal and other parts of West Africa.

In other news: If you have not seen it yet, I recently launched howtodrawcamels.com. Come help me teach the world to draw camels and support social enterprises in West Africa.

Lastly, we recently filmed the first episode of Clyde’s Corner. Clyde is a talking camel who answers reader submitted questions. Yes, he really talks. Have a look here. Here is the episode:

Till next time..

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