Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Jama Ko (4 stars)

Malian electric desert blues recorded in the midst of a military coup

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Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Jama Ko

(Out Here Records)

The jeli ngoni is the traditional stringed-instrument of Mande griot singers. Few play it like Bassekou Kouyate, however, who runs his through a wah pedal and cranked amp, firing off overdriven pentatonic runs which recall the electric desert blues of Tinariwen or Ali Farka Touré. Deftly balanced against the beautiful acoustic tones of his band Ngoni Ba, Kouyate creates a striking future-ancient sound.

Jama Ko was recorded in the midst of a military coup that has brought terrible unrest to Mali. Kouyate’s anger is palpable in the torrential ngoni leads and urgent rhythms of ‘Ne Me Fatigue Pas’, and his sadness in the sparse acoustic lament ‘Wagadou’. ‘Kele Magni’, a duet between Ngoni Ba’s main singer Amy Sacko and the great Khaira Arby, is a stirring call for peace, while ‘Poye 2’, a gruff, loping jam with Taj Mahal, unites African and American blues to fine effect.

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - "Jama ko" (New Album Preview)

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