Friday, September 21, 2007

In Review--Habib Koite's Afriki

Habib Koitè & Bamada (Mali)

People have waited a long time for a new studio recording by Malian singer-writer-guitarist Habib Koitè and his band, Bamada--6 years to be exact. Fortunately, his fans' hunger was satiated with the live recording, Foly! released on World Village a couple of years ago. Afriki acts as a new chapter to the 2001 studio recording, Baro (Putumayo).

Koitè still tells us stories backed by his blues guitar, and the extraordinary musicians in his band. You still hear Kèlètigui Diabatè's balafon shimmering throughout, Mahamadou Konè's talking drum smiling sunshine, and the other musicians adding warmth to the mix. In fact, warmth succinctly describes Afriki. The music here feels comforting and even consoling to those seeking some kind of protective balm.

Koitè sings about his mother who passed away recently, he sings about the tradesmen and other workers in Mali getting organized in the song, Barra (Work). And while Mali is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, many people suggest that the West African country possesses a wealth of musical talent. And while the hungry definitely need to be fed and poverty needs to be addressed, it would be a huge mistake to victimize Mali.

A better suggestion would be to build on the wealth in the form of talent--the trades people, farmers, musicians, and others that make the country stand apart from other developing countries. It seems that musically speaking, Mali is more developed than so-called wealthy countries of "the north." And so many people appear to be tapping into this musical wealth, which possesses both good and bad side effects.

Part of the country's wealth can be found in its diverse languages, musical styles, traditional instruments such as the balafon, the Malian lute, n'goni, and even the polyphonic hunter's horn which appears on Nta Dima, (a tribal sounding departure for Bamada). Afriki will please those fans who have been following Koitè's career throughout, since many of the elements of previous recording remain intact on Afriki.

Fame, articles in big music publications, and musical celebrity endorsements have not tainted Koitè's music or integrity. Koitè and Bamada deliver the goods and then some on Afriki. I would hope that he can stand on his musical merit alone, and that new fans won't jump on the bandwagon just because a famous musician endorses his work. It is better to love someone for who they are rather than follow the latest trend based on someone else's opinion. And the man who composes this beautiful music deserves our humble love. This music is truly beautiful and you can feel that beauty deep down into your soul.

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