Musical treasures in the land of the Niger River
The music of Mali is, like that of most African nations, ethnically diverse, but one influence predominates; that of the ancient Mali Empire of the Mandinka (from c. 1230 to c. 1600). Mande people (Bambara, Mandinka, Soninke) make up 50% of the country’s population. Its proud classical tradition, brilliantly represented by the kora player Toumani Diabaté and Ali Farka Touré, has led a school of virtuoso exponents of African blues guitar.
Vocalists such as Salif Keita and Oumou Sangaré have become international stars, while out of the sands of northern Mali has come the hypnotic and mysterious desert blues of Tinariwen and the legion of impressive Tuareg bands which have followed in their wake.
The pioneer of world music will be seen on the stage of the Africa Festival for the sixth time. Born in 1949, in the small village of Djoliba in Mali, this exceptional artist can trace his family back to the founder of the Mali Empire, Soundiata Keita, in the 13th century. However, as an albino, he was only accepted by his own family after his artistic successes. He is committed to the Albinos of Africa cause and has been rightly honoured with the coveted ‘Africa Festival Award’. “The music is like a tree. The roots are African, the trunk is jazz, and all the branches, twigs and fruits are the different stylistic directions”, he explained. Salif Keita himself has now climbed all the heights of this music tree and will enrapture the audience once again with his current musical treasure.
Salif Keita – Yamoré / Live Africa Festival 2003
Salif Keita / Photo © Bugs Steffen
Habib Koité / Photo © Bugs Steffen
Still an unknown artist then, Habib Koité already appeared many years ago at the 8th Africa Festival in 1998. He enchanted his audience with a magical concert. In the meantime, the singer and guitarist has become a popular star throughout the world. His unique guitar technique is derived from African instruments such as kora and ngoni. With his band Bamada, he creates dense and rhythmic soundscapes on instruments such as the balafon, the talking drum, and the calebasse. Here, his wonderful voice can fully unfold. You hear a live recording from the 20th International Africa Festival.
Oumou Sangare is among the great voices of the African continent and was finally the a guest of the 21th Africa Fetival in 2009. Wherever the charismatic singer appears on stage in her home country Mali, she is received like a queen. she draws from the rich musical tradiotions of South Mali, making the hypnotic, rhythmic and original Wassoulou music her trademark. Oumou´s texts are about everyday problems in Mali, mainly the problems women in Africa are confronted with.
Oumou Sangare / Photo © Bugs Steffen
Toumani Diabaté Photo © Bugs Steffen
Toumani Diabaté comes from a long family tradition of kora players, including his father Sidiki Diabaté, who recorded the first ever kora album in 1970. His family’s oral tradition tells of 70 generations of musicians preceding him in a patrilineal line. His cousin Sona Jobarteh is the first female kora player to come from a Griot family. His younger brother Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is also a prominent kora player.
In addition to performing the traditional music of Mali, he has also been involved in cross-cultural collaborations with flamenco, blues and jazz.
Not only since her successful debut album “Fatou” (2011), Fatoumata Diawara has been regarded as one of the heartiest campaigners and ambassadors for justice, peace, freedom and women’s rights far beyond the borders of her home country Mali. First, however, she made a name for herself as a sought-after theater and film actress, for example in “La Genèse” directed by Cheick Oumar Sissoko. She was honored with the “Africa Festival Award” for her commitment against the genital mutilation of children and young women in Africa in 2013. She was also the main actress in the film “Mali Blues” in which she also deals with this issue. With her great voice and music, which she calls “Wassoulou Folk”, she takes you to the vast desert regions of Mali.