This album provides over an hour of high-quality African music which would be a good way in for someone wanting to hear some traditionally-flavoured African music, or for those like me building a collection of the increasingly excellent stuff coming out of Africa these days.
The album centres on the ngoni, a four-stringed banjo/guitar type instrument, which originated in one particular part of Africa.
The tracks are a mixture of slower and more upbeat tempos, and the musicians use a variety of vocalists on the album, including some excellent female vocalists, but whether the tracks are instrumental or full songs, each one is an experience.
on 6 June 2008
I was fortunate enough to see Bassekou and his Ngoni Ba live and I spent the entire concert with a big grin on my face (I couldn't help it). The exuberance, style and sheer fun of them playing together also comes across on the album. If,like me, you don't know much about African music but want a great place to start you may just have found it. The problem will be finding something as good to follow it
on 7 July 2009
I bought this CD on the day of release thanks to a fantastic review I read in the Observer Music Monthly magazine a few months before (it's so unfair that these critics get their promos so early - not so much a review as simply just showing off!).
I have bought many Malian music recordings prior to this one and have to say that this is the jewel in the crown and the icing on the proverbial cake! The malian diva Oumou Sangare often used these Ngoni instruments in the background to her songs and it's really refreshing to hear that the Ngoni has now taken centre stage at last.
The highlights on this recording has to be "Jonkoloni" or the title track at the end ("Segu Blue"). Jonkoloni is a fast-ish skit like song with intricate polyrhythmic looped riffing from the Ngoni of varying sizes - listen out for the largest, lowest sounding one and hear how the player seems to be in a world of his own. The rhythms he plays doesn't seem to adhere to that of the rest of the group - comparable almost to Steve Reich!
The last track Segu Blue pays hommage to the link between Mailian music and it's offspring, the Blues. It's an instrumental tune with some great improvising in it with an obvious 12-bar Blues type riff right at the end to fade. It has to be heard to be believed! Hearing this had the same affect on me as when I heard the Pink Panther theme during the infamous Friday Night in San Francisco concert - I had to rewind it to double-check that I wasn't going mad!
If you're someone wondering where to start with regards to buying Malian music, then please look no further. You shall no be disappointed.
N.B. I use the term Malian music instead of the popular 'African' music term, as it is like using the term European music. It simply doesn't exist. Africa is a huge continent, and the music types vary from country to country massively.
on 6 August 2007
Trudging around Charlton Park WOMUD last week, I found one of Bassekou's wellington boots in the mud outside the Siam Tent. It's size 13 in red, gold and green with a small compass inset into the heel. If he wants it back, I would be grateful if he could perform at the Trades Club, Hebden Bridge before returning home to Mali. However, he better be quick because John Martyn has his eye on it.