Sahara Soul, Barbican, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Monday 28 January 2013
Bassekou Kouyate’s heavy mustard-yellow robes over a Shaft-style long leather jacket make his entrance regally impressive, even before he starts to pull improbably rich sounds from a cricket bat-resembling ngoni.
Knowing his home Mali for its music first, such proudly dazzling clothes added to my impression of a royal musical nation. Discovering its extreme poverty later was a shock, though nothing compared to the seismic body-blows tearing Mali from every side since 2012.
The bill Kouyate and his Ngoni Ba band headline tonight over Songhoi folk singer Sidi Toure and Touareg desert blues band Tamikrest attempts musical unity and protest. Toure’s home city Gao has been bombed and he’s in exile as are Tamikrest, artistic refugees from a fundamentalist jihad which has typically targeted a richly musical Muslim country with a ferocity the West is spared. Kouyate’s new album Jama Ko was begun with the sounds of a military coup outside the studio, contributing to its urgent, troubled atmosphere.
Kouyate, Toure and Tamikrest singer-guitarist Ousmane AG Mossa open the show together. Then Toure takes over, his voice still and calm at the centre of rattles and rumbles from a calabash and staccato plucks of an ngoni, a quiet polyrhythmic storm.
It’s a Francophone evening, but Toure’s meaning is clear as he mildly derides colourful Western classifications of Malian sounds - “Desert Blues, Niger Blues, Voodoo Blues - ohh la la!” - sketching a happier Atlantic trade which includes John Lee Hooker and loops back to blues base in “Afrique, Mali”. Tamikrest follow, steamhammer funk and wah-wah guitar accenting trance blues which never quite deranges as it might.
The unanswered ululations of female singer Wonou Walet Sidadi point out one enduring problem: the passive response of the arts centre crowd which happily supports but only timidly engages with music which, as Kouyate’s wife and vocalist Amy Sacko’s gently sensual movements show, is danceable and communal.
Kouyate’s second-half performance sees him plant a foot on the monitors for a forceful but unaggressive solo, leading his band of egoless ngoni virtuosos. Sacko, her voice and movements a female rebuff to fundamentalism, tag-teams with her husband. His frustrated incomprehension at the affronts to his country crashes through language barriers. Elbowing sweat from his brow, he finally loosens the crowd up. All three bands finish together in a Marc Bolan-style boogie, a scene making its own statement.
Arts & Ents blogs
There is a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refle...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
- 1 'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
- 2 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
- 5 'It was just like the movie Twister': Man survives Oklahoma tornado by taking refuge in horse stall
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.