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2009 - week 18, from 9 May: Wassalou sound of Oumou Sangare

PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 4:25 pm
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label

1 - Oumou Sangare - Sukunyali - session - Mali -

2 - Oumou Sangare - Sounsoumba - session - Mali -

3 - Oumou Sangare - Mogo Kele - session - Mali -

4 - Cheick-Tidiane Seck - Maningafoly - Hank Jones meets Cheick-Tidiane Seck and the Mandinkas - Mali/USA - Verve Gitanes


I’ve been playing Oumou Sangare’s records on the radio since World Circuit released her debut album back in 1988 and have been to see her play live most of the times she has come to London, but never met the singer herself until she and her band came to play in the basement at Bush House, in a studio that occupies the space originally intended for a swimming pool before the BBC became the building's tenants.

This was a stripped down version of the 10-piece band that was to play the Barbican two days later, no drum kit or electric bass, just the full acoustic line-up of kamal ngoni, acoustic guitar, two percussionists and two backing vocalists (*). For never-explained reasons, the taxi bringing half the band was thirty minutes later than the one carrying Oumou, so the session didn’t get started until about the time it was scheduled to finish. It’s always an uncomfortable sensation feeling time slip through our fingers like sand as musicians casually discuss exactly how the song should go before they eventually get into its groove.

photo at Rough Trade East by Jeremy Llewellyn-Jones [More at]

Sitting in the middle of the studio, enveloped in the music, it’s hard to tell what the microphones are picking up, and it was very disappointing to discover afterwards that a crucial backing vocal from one of the percussionists had been lost because nobody had warned the engineer that a mic would be needed. So we got three useable songs instead of four, and did not have any time left to do one again.

Instead, a slightly rushed interview was made more complicated because Oumou is not accustomed to the format of speaking succinctly and waiting while the interpreter relays her words in English. She had a tendency to add more words in French as he was conveying the English version of what she had just said. Producer Radek Boschetty did a valiant job of stitching together the result into a coherent shape, and I think we caught a valuable and revealing glimpse of what Oumou’s music sounds like without the additional weight of western instruments.

For me, part of the value is in listening afterwards to the fully arranged versions in the Barbican concert and on the album and recognising the fleshed out versions of skeletons that were revealed here.

Knowing that Oumou is from the Wassalou region of southern Mali, I asked her what makes it different from the rest of Mali. It’s greener, she explained, growing fruit, flowers and vegetables which are not seen much in the region closer to the Sahara. Unfortunately, this exchange got lost in translation.

To replace the lost recording, we played a track from the album of Cheick-Tidiane Seck, the keyboard player who co-produced and arranged her album.

(*) The line up of musicians on the session was, from left to right:
Cheikh Oumar Diabate - djembe
Brehima Diakite aka "Benego" - kamal ngoni
Souleimane Sidibe - percussion
Oumou Sangare - vocals
Dandio Sidibe - backing vocals
Fatoumata Diawara - backing vocals

Hamane Toure aka "Bastos" –acoustic guitar (not shown in photo)

This week-end's show

PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 8:06 pm
by kastamonu
Fab - loved it all - the last track really ended my day with a smile.

PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 11:13 pm
by Alan


PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2009 12:19 pm
by Charlie
email from:

1. Richard Goodchild, Birmingham UK

Great Programme Charlie

Is it possible to obtain a download of the
Oumou Sangare session recently broadcast, or
will it ever be released by the BBC ?


CG reply: see the podcast thread in this section for the standard reply - rights owners don;t allow it.

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 5:20 pm
by Andrewq
Just caught the show before the next one goes out and yes, nice contrast to the Barbican show.
So Charlie, you no longer want to learn Spanish! Is that because you're now fluent or since Womex has left Seville you don't need to worry.

PostPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 6:27 pm
by Charlie
Andrewq wrote: since Womex has left Seville you don't need to worry.

that's right, I'm brushing up on my Danish.