BASSEKOU KOUY­ATE & NGONI BA

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

I Speak Fula

(sub Pop Records) Bassekou Kouy­ate’s his­tory shows an in­no­va­tive spirit. A sig­nif­i­cant blip on his path was the day about 15 years ago when, still a teenager, he as­tounded an au­di­ence at the Buf­fet de la Gare club in Ba­mako, Mali, by play­ing a ngoni solo stand­ing up. He broke other lo­cal-mu­sic tra­di­tions when he added strings to the ngoni and in­vented a deeper-toned in­stru­ment than the stan­dard bass ngoni, all in the in­ter­est of an ex­panded mu­si­cal range. His long­time band, Ngoni Ba, in­cludes three more play­ers on the lute­like ngoni, vo­cal­ist (and Kouy­ate’s wife) Amy Sacko, and per­cus­sion­ists. In this mu­sic of Mali you can hear what mu­si­col­o­gists say is the source of Amer­i­can rock and blues, al­though Kouy­ate’s mu­sic is in­formed by his past per­for­mances with Béla Fleck, Dee Dee Bridge­wa­ter, and Taj Ma­hal. The ti­tle song moves joy­ously along with a for­ward-ori­ented rhythm, in­tri­cate string work on the ngoni, and happy-hearted vo­cals by Sacko. The softer but also dance­able “Ja­mana Be Diya” fea­tures two guests: kora vir­tu­oso Toumani Di­a­bate and vo­cal­ist Kasse Mady Di­a­bate, who is a Malian

jeli (sto­ry­teller and his­to­rian). An­other al­bum high­light is “Mu­sow — For Our Women” with its fre­netic, daz­zling in­stru­men­tals. Song themes in­clude co­op­er­a­tion, re­mem­ber­ing the he­roes of the 18th-cen­tury Ba­mana Em­pire, and the im­por­tance of both ed­u­ca­tion and par­ty­ing. — Paul Wei­de­man

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