Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba – Jama Ko (2013)
Sometimes you come to albums with no knowledge about them and with no preconceivied notions. That is how I approached Jama Ko.
I’m almost tempted to not tell you too much about Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba, because it could possibly spoil the fun I had listening to this album trying to place just where this music comes from. I went on a global trip in my mind trying to narrow down what country this could have hailed from.
First, and most prominent on the album, is the stringed instrument that is so playfully plucked and strummed throughout. At times it sounds like a guitar, sometimes a ukulele and often a middle-eastern instrument like the dutar or rubab, and occasionally like a Greek laoutu. Next, the choral harmony of the backing vocals sounds African, while the inflections in the lead vocals sound Persian or Indian. Finally, the style is mostly charming upbeat Afrobeat-style Jazz (mostly driven by the unnamed stringed instrument), some Calyspo-esque beats, and finally Blues, especially on track Poye 2 (which is sang in French, reinforcing the African theme).
Well, Poye 2 gives it all away in the end:
Blues pour le Mali, pour le Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Gambie, Guinea Bisau, oh Mali, oh Mali
Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba hail from Mali, which is, after all, the other home of the blues. The aforementioned stringed instrument is the Malian ngoni, a kind of lute, not dissimilar to the Afghan dutar and rubab, and Bassekou Kouyate and his two sons are masterful players. His wife completes the line up on vocals.
The whole album is a groovy fusion gem, loose and playful, immediately accessible as well as rewarding on further listens. Well worth it.
Favourite tracks: Sinaly, Segu Jajiri, Mali Koori
Spotify link: Bassekou Kouyate + Ngoni ba – Jama ko