|Written by Simba|
Batuki Music Society presents
BASSEKOU KOUYATÉ & NGONI BA
Mali’s Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba have deep roots in the griot tradition. The ngoni drives the band’s energetic live performances. When four of them are joined by the calabash, percussion and vocalist Amy Sacko’s transcendent voice, the pulsing, hypnotic sound compels audiences to dance.
opening: DANIEL NEBIAT
The Djeli/Griot's Ngoni 101
Bassekou Kouyaté is a virtuoso picker and musical visionary whose work blurs the lines between West African and American roots music. The ngoni, his instrument, is a ‘spike lute’ and an ancestor of the banjo, sharing its taut-skinned drum body, percussive attack, and varied picking techniques.
Bassekou is a true master of the ngoni and he has collaborated with many musicians in and outside of Mali. He was part of Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabaté’s Kulanjan project, as well as being one of the key musicians on Ali Farka Toure’s posthumous album Savane (2006). He also toured and recorded with Bela Fleck on the Grammy winner ‘Throw Down Your Heart’.
an interview with Banning Eyre on Afropop Worldwide
Bassekou was born in a village called Garana, 40 miles from Segu in the remote countryside on the banks of the Niger River. He was raised in a traditional music environment, his mother a praise singer and his father and brothers exceptional ngoni players. Bassekou moved to Bamako when he was 19 years old where he met the young Toumani Diabaté. By the late 1980’s Bassekou was part of Toumani’s trio and they recorded their first albums together, ‘Songhai’ and ‘Djelika’. Bassekou married the singer Ami Sacko, the ‘Tina Turner of Mali', and they have been in high demand for the traditional Sunday wedding parties in the streets of Bamako.
In 2005, Bassekou formed Ngoni Ba, the first-ever group built around not one but four ngonis of different sizes, all played by members of his family. Its repertoire is from the region of Segu, the heart of Bambara culture. Unlike Mandinka griot music, Bambara music is pentatonic in nature, music as close to the blues as you can get in Africa.
Bringing the ngoni from the palace to the people, a global griot rocks his roots!
Segu Blue, his debut as a band leader, won the 2007 BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music as Best Album. It was followed in 2009 with I Speak Fula - 11 tracks providing a star-studded tour of pan-Malian music, including contributions from Toumani Diabaté, griot vocal legend Kasse Mady Diabaté, master of the horse-hair soku fiddle Zoumana Tereta, and guitar phenomenon Vieux Farke Toure, Ali’s talented son. I Speak Fula was nominated for the 2010 Grammy for Best Traditional World Music Album, ironically won by a Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabaté collaboration).