Habib Koité's most recent album was his acclaimed partnership with American blues maestro Eric Bibb, and he has worked for the past few years with Oliver Mutukudzi and Afel Bocoum on the Acoustic Africa project, but it has been seven years since the great Malian guitarist has released an album of his own. It is with real delight then that Contre Jour present this thrilling new addition to Habib's discography. Habib sings in a number of languages, reflecting the diversity of his homeland, but his dextrous guitar work is a constant and his band provide superb backing on these eleven tracks. At times pensive, a reaction to recent events in Mali, but for the most part enchanting, stimulating and uplifting, with songs on topics ranging from love and football, to FGM, the plight of Mali, and quaffing tequila in Los Angeles... Habib perfectly incarnates what Mali is today: a vast multicultural land that yearns for peace and understanding.
Top of the World selection in Songlines magazine. Perhaps it was recording 2012's Brothers in Bamako with the American bluesman Eric Bibb that persuaded Habib Koite it was time for a change; but for whatever the reason, after more than 20 years and half a dozen albums backed by his band Bamada, only bassist Abdul Berthe remains on Soo. It's more than a simple change of personnel, too. He's dropped the drum kit in favour of calabash and djembé and added a banjo to the line-up - an instrument that he was introduced to by Bibb. The result is a lilting set sung in his smooth baritone voice in Malinke, Bamana and Dogon, mixing different Malian traditions and addressing many of the problems currently facing his country. The context of the gently melancholic 'Deme', with its message about living together in peace could not be clearer, given Mali's recent history. 'Need You' is about forced marriage; 'Khafole,' despite its gorgeous lullaby-like melody, is a tragic song about a mother grieving for her dead son. The closer, 'Diadjiry', a song about war and its horrors made famous by Fanta Damba, is played as a sparkling solo guitar piece and reminds us that Habib is one of Africa's most accomplished instrumentalists. The changes have done Habib no end of good. --Songlines