Lobi Traore: Guitarist who fused blues and rock with his native Malian music

A songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist, Lobi Traoré was best known for his distinctive, almost psychedelic guitar style. His music was a gritty but never overwrought fusion of rock and blues with his own Bambara folklore roots and earned him a strong cult following at home in Mali. He came to be known abroad during the last two decades through a series of solo and collaborative albums, as well as numerous tours. Word about his legendary residencies at Bamako night spots such as Bozo bar and Ma Kele Kele filtered out via reports by visiting musical cognoscenti.

One of these was the writer and musician Banning Eyre, who recalls in his book In Griot Time: an American guitarist in Mali (2000) how the Bambara bluesman described his relationship with American influences, such as the music of John Lee Hooker. "Maybe I was inspired by it. Maybe the blues was inspired by Africa. Maybe the resemblance is just a coincidence. What I know is this: the music I play comes from my place."

After visiting Mali in 2000 and playing with Traoré, the American blues guitarist Bonnie Raitt remarked: "Bambara music, and the way that Lobi plays it, is something that really moves me because it's so blues – he has a very interesting hybrid of rock and African and blues in him and he is original in a way that I've never heard anybody; his tone and what he plays where and his band are unbelievable."

Traoré was born in the village of Bakaridianna, close to the provincial capital of Ségou. Both his parents took part as singers in the local Komo secret society, and when he was only 16, he joined the folk group Apollo in Ségou, as a drummer.

His professional career commenced shortly after this when he moved to Bamako, where he played guitar in a wedding band. At that time, Traoré's only background was in the Bambara music he had grown up with, and he was compelled to learn the Manding styles they played.

In 1979 he went with Apollo to play for three months in the Ivory Coast capital Abidjan, and ended up staying there till 1984. On his return to Bamako, he began learning guitar skills from Zani Diabaté of the Super Djata Band, with whom he would soon make his first tours of Europe and North America, as one of their singers. During the 1980s, he further honed his guitar style in Bamako's more leftfield bars, which eventually brought him to the attention of the producer Philippe Berthier, who recorded his first cassette, Bambara Blues in 1991.

For the follow-up album Bamako (1994), Traoré began an association with the late "desert blues" maestro Ali Farka Touré, who produced and made guest appearances on this and the two subsequent releases, Segou (1996) and Duga (1999). On the latter he was joined by the Paris-based harmonica player Vincent Bucher, whom he had got to know during tours of Europe in the mid-1990s. When the British musician Damon Albarn visited Mali in 1999 as part of the On the Line project, he started work on the album that would become Mali Music (Honest Jon's, 2002), which included a contribution by Traoré.

Traoré performed at the 2003 Festival in the Desert, the celebrated annual gathering in the dusty north of Mali, near Timbuktu, and in 2005, Honest Jon's released the album The Lobi Traoré Group, a live recording made three years earlier. It would be another three years before they appeared at London's Barbican Centre for the Honest Jon's Chop Up.

The same year, Traoré released his last album I Yougoba (Diesel Motor), a collaboration with the Dutch blues artist Joep Pelt, who had met him on a visit to Mali in 2004. They had recorded it in 2006, and toured Europe the following year. Traoré's most recent high-profile work was in contributing lead guitar to two tracks on the album BKO (Glitterhouse, 2010) by the US-based group Dirtmusic. Two more recently recorded albums by Traoré are likely to be released soon.

Jon Lusk

Bourama (Lobi) Traoré, musician: born Bakaridianna, Mali 1 January 1962; married (four children); died Bamako, Mali 1 June 2010.

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice