Album: Issa Bagayogo, Mali Koura (Six Degrees)

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The Independent Culture

It doesn't take a genius to predict that Issa Bagayogo will be the next musician to step up from Mali's local scene to global recognition, following Tinariwen, Bassekou Kouyaté and Amadou & Mariam into the kind of success that must have seemed (literally) continents away when Bagayogo was trying to escape drug addiction a few years ago.

His wonderful 2004 album Tassoumakan laid the groundwork for Mali Koura, on which the ancient and modern elements are more seamlessly blended into a sound and style that harks back to native traditions through springy ngoni lines and the occasional marimba, but which is perfectly contemporary thanks to the keyboards used to create dancefloor grooves. The opener "Sebero" sidles in on a treated ngoni figure, soon accompanied by a jauntier version of the desert-blues guitar style of Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen. With a female backing trio providing chorus responses, the effect is not unlike Amadou & Mariam, though Bagayogo's self-effacing rap section is strikingly sui generis. Lovely, tart sokou fiddle is an astringent counterpoint to the ngoni on "Poye". On "Tcheni Tchemakan", Bagayogo's baritone murmur has the elegant warmth of late-period John Martyn; not as odd a comparison as one might suppose.

Pick of the album:'Sebero', 'Poye', 'Tcheni Tchemakan'

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