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2008 - week 26, from 29 June - Best of Bassekou Kouyate

PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:53 pm
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Songhai 2 - Niani - Songhai 2 - Mali/Spain - Hannibal - HNCD1383

2 - Toumani Diabate - Tony Vander - Djelika - Mali - Hannibal - HNCD1380

3 - Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Bassekou - Segu Blue - Mali - Out There - OH 007

4 - Ali Farka Touré - Savane - Savane - Mali - World Circuit - WCD075

5 - Youssou N'Dour - Dabbax - Rokku Mi Rokka - Senegal - Nonesuch - PRO 400015


For most people, just remembering the name of the artists is tough enough, especially in world music where the pronunciation can be difficult and the conventions of people’s names hard to take in. As long as you know roughly what the name looks like, that’s all you need in order to find the album in the record racks or mail order websites.

But for some of us, curiosity takes us behind the front covers as we start perusing the names in small print, the producers, song-writers and sometimes even the session musicians. Through my twenties, I began to find out more and more about the records I had loved as a teenager, identifying the names of producers Phil Spector, Jerry Wexler and Berry Gordy and discovering that a teenage guitarist called James Burton had played on ‘Suzie-Q’ by Dale Hawkins before being recruited by teen idol Ricky Nelson, whose records always featured wonderful guitar solos.

By the 1980s, I had a pretty good familiarity with most of the background people involved in American and British recordings of the past forty years. But as I began to add African records into the range of music I was listening to, I was dismayed to realise that I was going to have to learn an entirely new set of names. I have often wondered if the intense resistance showed by so many rock music journalists towards music from the rest of the world is the realisation, conscious or otherwise, that they would have to start from the beginning, as novices having to grapple with so much unknown information. It’s so much easier to deny its importance, than to have to do all that homework.

Compared to some people, I may seem a bit of a know-all, but the truth is that my knowledge is still paper thin. I may recognise the names on the front of the albums from many parts of the world, and be able to make a guess about what they might sound like; but I remain shockingly ignorant about the names in small print on the back.

Bassekou Kouyate,
Best African Artist,
BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music 2008

All of which is a rather long-winded confession that when I first received the album by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba, I did not recognise his name. The press release pointed out that he had been recently featured on the title track of Ali Farka’s Touré’s posthumous album, Savane, and referred to other artists whose records he ad played on, but I wasn’t paying attention, being too excited listening to his debut album to need or want to spend time reading about his past.


Now the time feels right to do a bit of delving and, thanks to some help from forum contributors, this programme goes back to Bassekou’s first appearances on record, Songhai II in 1994. A collaboration between Toumani Diabate and the Spanish flamenco group, Ketama, this was the follow-up to Songhai I, which was in turn a follow up to Toumani’s debut album Kaira. All three albums were released on the Hannibal label and co-produced by label boss Joe Boyd with Lucy Duran, at that time a researcher at the National Sound Archive who already probably knew the contemporary music of Mali better than any other non-African.


A year later, Hannibal released a second album by Toumani Diabate, Djelika, which I overlooked at the time, but which includes some several good tracks including ‘Tony Vander’ with Bassekou to the fore.

Amy Sacko

There’s a curious convention in West Africa whereby band-leaders write a song celebrating themselves which is sung to them by somebody else. Who could be more appropriate than the band-leader’s wife, Amy Sacko? And look who's producing - Lucy Duran, Bassekou's champion for more than a decade.

Ali Farka Toure [photo courtesy ]

When I write album reviews for the Observer Music Monthly, I normally send each one to a person closely connected to the record, who can point out any howlers. Responding to my draft review of Savane by Ali Farka Touré, producer Nick Gold said it was all fine except that was not Toumani Daiabate playing a kora on the title track, but Bassekou Kouyaté playing a ngoni. I duly and gratefully made the correction, but still did not really register the musician’s name and so did not immediately recognise it when Bassekou’s own album arrived in the mail.

Youssou N'Dour

As far as I know, Youssou N’Dour had not previously recorded with any musician from Mali before inviting Bassekou to play on his album Rokku Mi Rokka, where he contributes to five tracks. To my ears, they are the best tracks on the album. Bassekou’s instrument is listed as xalam, but I checked with Lucy who confirmed that he is playing his normal ngoni, which in Senegal is called a xalam.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:18 am
by Charlie
emails from

1. John Richards, Cardiff

Thanks so much Charlie for playing more Bassekou Kouyate stuff. I've become a big fan of his since hearing him live with Ngoni Ba lon your show. It is rare, even among West African musicians, to hear playing of such amazing delicacy yet that conveys such powerful emotions. Your comment about the baton being handed from Ali Farka Toure is spot on!


2. caireann, singapore


nice to see you are concentrating mainly on presenting west african bush music.

Arent you forgetting the rest of the world?


3. Tony Van der Eecken, Brussels, Belgium

Hi Charly Gillet,

You said in the program you did not know who Tony Vander is, well I am the one who toured Toumani and Basekou in the nineties. I also staged Ali Farka's last show in Europe in Brussels in the Fine Arts Centre.

I'm working since 2000 and introduced bands like Kasaï Allstars (in 2000!) and konono n°1 (in 2003) to the European audience.

At the moment I'm preparing an allstar program on Congo's 50th year of independence in 2010.

All the best

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 8:20 pm
by will vine
I thought that was a particularly funky little show Charlie....just thought I'd let you know that. I find I don't have anything very remarkable to say about most of your shows but I'm still enjoying most of them after all these years. Feedback here worthy of the order of the O.B.N I suspect, but who cares?