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coverpic flag Mali - Full Moon 130 - 05/02/07

Bassékou Kouyaté & Ngoni ba
Segu Blue
Out Here Records

Some blues pop African style, anyone? Bassékou Kouyaté is the king and master genius of ngoni - a traditional western African string instrument (a lute type). Segu Blue is an album filled with soulful, suggestive music from Mali, seeing Kouyaté plucking his three-stringed ngoni in the most relaxed way, with complexity and simplicity blended together.

Bassékou Kouyaté is said to be 'a genius, a living proof that the blues comes from the region of Segu' (Taj Mahal, the blues musician - born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks). Fatboy Slim and Damon Albarn are fans of his. Europe and the US are again opening their hands and ears increasingly to African popular music. Bassékou Kouyaté has played/collaborated with a lot of musicians of his country as well as international acts (such as Carlos Santana and U2). Last year he was featured on an album by another great Malian musician, the late Ali Farka Touré's posthumous Savane. Ali Farka Touré was another man proving the accurate origin of the blues.

The album holds 14 songs, and is said to tell stories of the great Bambara empire of Segou (an empire from the early 18th century, before the French colonisation). Concerning the lyrics I feel like a stranger. Standing on the outside, understanding nothing at all. This gives quite a distance to the music, but it gives you the possibility to focus on the music. At first I also sometimes "dropped out/tuned out" of the sound and style. As a wasted western pop-head I'm not at all trained to listen to African pop. I need practice, and I want to practice. More people should do so. Now and then the music sounds chaotic, messed up and out of focus. The next moment I realise there's a plan behind it, a framework controlling it. Among the vocal guests on the album are Kassemady Diabaté, Lobi Traoré and Ami Sacko (Bassékou's wife).

Segu Blue is said to be a grower, getting better with every listen. I'll definitely give it several more rotations. Fascinating, golden hearted music, with a burning soul.

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