Yere Faga is available at:
Soul; Pop; Afrobeat
3rd February, 2017
THE fingers have just come off the keypad where I was…
adding the final touches to a review of the Scottish Hardcore band, Ray Brower. With nary a moment’s breath, it is to someone who shares no D.N.A. with the band at all – her music and background are completely different. I will introduce my featured artist soon but wanted to look at a few pertinent topics. I have just come from a band that mixes heavy riffs with something cerebral and invigorating. Now, it is in to a different world and music that has a different skin and ideals. I wanted to look, first, at the country of Mali; a bit about Afrobeats and music from the African continent. It is easy looking out at modern music and assuming most of it stems from Britain or the U.S. To be fair, most of the best and most popular sounds come from these nations. If you think about the artists you like most: how many of them have their roots in these countries? Maybe it is a fascination I have with African-based artists but you’d be surprised the derivation and origins of your favourite artists. We never really take the time to think about where a musician comes from and where their lives started. It is all about the music and getting that quick fix. Perhaps modern artists are not interesting enough to warrant exploration – perhaps there is not enough time to get invested. I have reviewed a few African artists throughout the years so it is good to be at the feet of Oumou Sangaré. If one thinks of Mali, if one ever does, you get some names that stand out – those who have made their mark on music. Ali Farka Touré is, perhaps, the most famous artist to hail from Mali. His legacy and impact on African music – and the world in a larger sense – is not to be understated. It would not be fair to say every African artist falls under the ‘World music’ banner – a name given to sounds that are for particular tastes. One can hear a lot of Ali Farka Touré’s influence in modern music and a wave of new Grime, Hip-Hop and chart acts.
Similarly, little bits of Amadou & Mariam, the Grammy-nominated duo and Salif Keita requires more attention. Whilst a lot of these names might be slightly ‘older’, experienced hands; there is a new, younger breed of Malian performer keeping the tradition alive whilst spreading the messages to the international world. Rokia Traoré, the Victories de la Musique performer is an award-winning songwriter who is worth keeping your eyes on. Not being based in Mali, I am not sure how the country operates and what the scene is like. It is clear Malian music is having a big effect on the western world and being adapted by modern artists. It is not surprising Mali and its ethos has had that resonant effect on artists throughout Europe and North America. Not only do the people place emphasis on community, family and faith: they are a gentler, more spiritual nation whose foundation of love and understanding is something we should all take to heart. In a musical sense, the traditional instruments of the country are easily adaptable and accessible. You get percussive beats that borrow from the land. Often, drumming and beat-making can be achieved by scraps of metal and wood; the instrumentation is more basic with less emphasis on technology and electronics – perhaps what one would expect from African roots. These unique and stunning sounds have been employed by musicians here for years but never really get the credit they deserve.
Thinking about Oumou Sangaré, and before I talk about Afrobeats, she is going to inspire a lot of musicians here and help bring colour, innovation and power to their work. Before I go on, let me introduce her to you:
“The power of Oumou’s voice and the potency of her message remain as strong as ever and, while her sound is rooted deep in the continuity of Malian tradition, Mogoya has a strong new sound. Co-produced by Andreas Unge in Stockholm and by the French production collective A.l.b.e.r.t. (who have worked with among others Air, Tony Allen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck, Franz Ferdinand) in Paris, it draws on a rich musical heritage whilst also looking to the future. “We wanted to emphasise the raw power of Oumou’s voice and songs. We wanted to find a new modernity” says co-producer Ludovic Bruni, one of the three members of A.l.b.e.r.t. with Vincent Taurelle and Vincent Taeger.
On the album, traditional African instruments – the camel n’toni (harp), karignan (metal scraper) and calabash percussion – are augmented by electric guitar, bass, keyboards and synths with Tony Allen on drums. As Oumou puts it, “This time round I wanted to go for more of a modern sound, to satisfy young people in Mali but being careful, all the while, to respect my culture and tradition”. The songs describe what Oumou knows best – human relationships. She addresses difficult topics with incredible frankness – jealousy, ingratitude and betrayal – never afraid to sing about the day-to-day problems faced by African society, particularly women.
Oumou has a high international profile, touring all over the world, collaborating with artists such as Alicia Keys, Tracy Chapman, Bela Fleck and Dee Dee Bridgewater and featuring on the soundtrack of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and has three businesses in Mali – a range of SUVs called ‘Oum-Sang’, a hotel in Bamako and ‘Oumou Sangaré Rice’, grown in her own fields.
She has released five albums on the World Circuit label: Moussolou, meaning “women” (1990),
Ko Sira (1993), Worotan (1996), Oumou (2003) and Seya (2009).
Music is at the absolute centre of Oumou’s life: “without it I’m nothing and nothing can take it from me” and Mogoya represents an exciting new chapter in her career – something which she approaches with a mixture of boldness, humility and confidence”.
Although Sangaré is no longer living in Mali – she is based in London, I think – she brings her background and familial links to her music. One hears Afrobeat movements in her latest sounds and a genre that is starting to become more prominent in the U.K. Again, it is a side of music that deserves more attention but has found its way into a lot of contemporary Pop and Soul. Think of the legends like Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti (Fela Kuti) and you have a name that is known my most. I shall mention him more but he is, perhaps, the Godfather of Afrobeats and one of its most influential proponents. Younger exponents of the form like Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun (A.K.A. Wizkid) are starting to build foundations and continue the great work done by the likes of Kuti and bringing it to a larger audience. I guess that is why acts like Wizkid and Sangaré (labelled the ‘Songbird of Wassoulou’) are keen to promote African music and Afrobeats. Tiwatope Savage-Balogun, known as Tiwa Savage, is a Nigerian musician mixing their older and new forms of Afrobeats – modifying and incorporating its rich language into his own music. British-Ghanaian artist Papa Kwarne Amponsa plays around Brockley and is another young talent with a big future. If you have not immersed yourself in Afrobeats music; chances are you would have encountered some form of the genre at some time. It is becoming more prominent in the musical lexicon and, because of its adaptable nature and unquestionable prowess, finding eager translators in current music. Tony Allen, who worked with Fela Kuti and drummed for him, has provided percussion for Sangaré on her latest album. I will come to that record more soon but wanted to look at Tony Allen, briefly. My first exposure to him was when he provided sticks for Damon Albarn’s supergroup, The Good, The Bad & the Queen. Their eponymous debut (and lone album) was released in 2007 and was relatively well received by the press. It helped showcase Allen’s unique and influential percussive style – one that has funnelled into a lot of modern bands and artists.
His influence cannot be understated; bringing his talent to Sangaré’s work is a big coup. He is an African statesman who has had a long and varied career. Thinking about him and songwriters like Sangaré makes me feel more connected with Africa, Mali and genres like Afrobeats. I suppose that is the way we can really get an insight into African cultures and sounds, unless we visit the continent, is through music. If one were to take a trip to somewhere like Mali (or Nigeria), I am sure the experience you got would be very different to listening to British-African artists. The pure, local vibes might seem rather distant to the more polished and professional sounds you find in our acts – that is not to say it is a weak imitation. Sangaré is very true to her upbringing and the sort of music she would have experienced as a younger woman. I’ll park this subject by the roadside but want to pick it back up on the way back. For now, I wanted to mention the aspects of Sangaré that make her stand out. She is a Grammy-winning artist and has been in the music business for twenty-eight years. With so many new musicians unable to survive a couple of years – let alone three decades! – she is a case study of how things should be done. That endurance and tenacity amazes me. As I said, there seems like a planned obsolescence in music: you might survive a few years but then start to fade. The fact Sangaré is looking to enter her fourth decade of music-making is quite an extraordinary feat. Mogoya (meaning ‘people today’) is the new album and one that intrigues me greatly. Given everything I know about her – the way she addresses human emotions and cultures of the world – one detects a slightly cynical interpretation of that title. The way the world is shaping up at the moment – less real and human than ever – makes me wonder whether there was a political inspiration. Certainly, for someone who preaches humanity, equality and love: the way the planet is changing must rile and appal her. It does me and I don’t like human beings half as much she does.
I’ll return to my original points in the conclusion but wanted to concentrate on a particular, rather niche aspect: Sampha and laudation from contemporary artists. Sangaré has earned her place in the pantheons of current legends: someone who has worked tirelessly since the start to bring the best music to the people. No matter how inventive and evolving an artist is – a Kate Bush, M.I.A. or Björk – it can be quite hard getting patronage from the young generation. Even someone as established and reputable as Sangaré might struggle to get the new, ‘cool’ musicians backing her. I only mention this because Sampha has come out in support of her. He is, in case you don’t know, one of the hottest British artists at the moment. His critically-lauded album, Process, has critics drooling. NME singled its craft and recognition of inner-turmoil – how he has transformed that into something reactive and positive. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was impressed by the arrangements and clear identity – not an album that tries to fit into the crowds and copy the herd. The unlikely optimism and grace of the album sat with power and enormous talent. Critics and fans reacted to this and bonded with that sense of catharsis and humanity. One of the standout albums from this year, Sampha is a fine talent we should be keeping our eyes on. The fact he has bonded with Sangaré, is, perhaps no surprise. They both have that spiritual, soulful sound and fine ear for arrangements – able to create such vivid, potent and original music. Both recognise and react to pain and human emotions – albeit, in different ways. It would be great, if there are no current plans, for the two London-based artists to come together and create something special. I could well-imagine Sangaré’s African roots and Afrobeats ideologies fusing with Sampha’s dreamy piano and ethereal motifs. That contrast and perfect parabond will not only connect with both set of fans but unite the factions; draw in new supporters and lead to something genuinely unique.
It is not only vindication her music is timeless and ever-relevant but a useful conduit into the modern Soul/R&B market. As I say, I hope the two work together more in the future and it would be good to see a Sangaré/Sampha hook-up – a great album that brings their experiences and cultures together. London is their common base and a city that is endlessly inspiring and busy. Grammy-winning Sangaré is vibing from a city whose people and tribulations are inspiring creative spurts. More widely, the contrasts and tribes of the world are compelling – the people and shared experiences; aspects of regret, love and nature. One of the good things, among many, of reviewing is the spectrum of artists I experience. More often than not, I will look at an act quite new and sapling – starting out and throwing down their early thoughts. With Sangaré, I get to experience a musician with years’ experience under her belt. The fact she has been given that Grammy honour and spiked the imagination of Sampha – the future is going to be very busy, exciting and promising. I shall talk about her latest single soon, but before I do, wanted to express my thoughts on Sangaré’s key strengths and attributes. In every review and from many lips; it is her cadence, delivery and personality that infuse her songs with so much vivacity and nuance. It may seem like a simple dramatic consideration, but music is an artform. Whether you see it as a means of self-expression or, those Luddite Pop clones a way of earning financial reach-around – it is a performance-medium that demands a certain physicality and soulfulness. It does not matter whether you are a Metal slasher or a contemplative Folk artist: conveying true emotions and connecting with the listeners is paramount. For an artist who looks at the wider world and talks about humans: delivering her messages – and ensuring they connect – requires quite a discipline and unique set of skills. What we get from Sangaré is a true performer who expresses so many different ideas and emotions through her music.
It is hard to easily define and explain how she interprets music but you get a songwriter whose words tap into shared experiences and feelings. When it comes to translating them and getting the words out there – it is done with an enormous amount of consideration, ability and affinity. Perhaps not surprising from someone who has been in music so long. One learns a certain working methodology and learns from years of live performance. Sangaré is a performer whose ability and connective properties emanate from her roots and soul – not something one could necessarily teach to another. Others have commentated on her range of movements – vocally and physically – and the way lines and sentences are transformed from written syllables to fluid, flowing birds – beautiful, agile and evocative. Yere Faga is the latest single from Sangaré and one that shows just what a performer she is. I would love to see the song performed on stage because, on record, it evokes so many different possibilities and inspired daydreaming and reflection. This is her first material in eight years and that seems like a rather appropriate timeframe. Eight years ago, the world was a much more optimistic and promising time. In terms of a U.S. President, we were witnessing history: Barack Obama becoming America’s first black leader. There was terrorism and evil – as there will always be – but there seemed to be greater stability in the governments of the U.S. and U.K. Forward the clock to 2016/’17 and things are vastly different. We are in a place where a dictator is in The White House: almost a North Korean regime in terms of tyrannical mandates and odious selfishness. Donald Trump is someone whose own agenda and will seems to supersede the desires of the people. That inalienable right for freedom and liberty has been skewed, rather monstrously, as a precursor to exclusionary impositions and racist, bigoted viewpoints. Feeding the will of the worst kind of American – making the country “great again” seems to mean returning to the swamp – is the way things are going down. Here, there is so much tension, post-Brexit.
In a strange way, the world is more inspirational and creativity-provoking than it has been in recent years. Musicians are witnessing the disenfranchisement and balkanisation and responding with something more productive and hopeful. Sangaré is someone who has always commentated on humans and the way we live: those threads and things that connect us all. Naturally, one looks at a song like Yere Faga and extrapolates a lot from it. The blunders and horrors of the modern world cannot help but infect any new song of the moment. For someone who is so connected with the world around her; consciously or not, some of that goes into the music. What excites me about Oumou Sangaré is her sense of inspiration and purpose. She has never sounded as relevant and passionate as she does now. Such an experience artist might sound a little jaded and predictable so many years down the line. Sangaré is always changing and developing her music. No two albums really sound alike so it is no shock her latest material is quite a refreshing work. Sangaré is going to be busy performing this year and has hooked up with A.l.b.e.r.t. and the Indie label Nø Førmat! The former is the crack French musical team who have worked with the likes of Beck, Air and Franz Ferdinand. The latter is a French label that she has worked with before – quite a welcomed return. They are home to Blick Bassy and ALA.NI – the latter is someone I have interviewed before. It is a tight and efficient combination of talent that is where Sangaré needs to be right now. With that reputable label and authoritative production team backing her; her current work is, debatably, her strongest. It will be interesting to see how the new song and album (Mogoya) is translated on the stage and how she follows it. I have theorised how influential modern politics is to her work. You cannot help but immerse yourself in the music and summon certain images and avenues. Make sure you go and see Sangaré perform live is you get the chance.
I am keen to review Sangaré’s latest song, so, before I do, wanted to give a nod to her ‘outside’ work. In addition to being an experienced songwriter; she is a U.N.E.S.C.O. Prize-winner & U.N. ambassador; she’s a tireless advocate for women’s rights – campaigning for decades against polygamy, child marriages and the oppression of women in Mali. There is almost an Angelina Jolie-esque sense of responsibility and protectionism in Sangaré. Being from Mali, she would have seen how women are oppressed and seen as second-class citizens. Few can live around that – and be subject to it – without feeling the need to take action and stand up. It is not just people from developing nations that feel oppression but it is a lot more prevalent there. I am not going into the reasons why but feel more people in the developed world should do more. Whether you see discrimination and oppression at home or abroad, we are in an age where it is easier to have your voice heard. Social media and the Internet provides an open-to-all parapet for humans to express their opinions – a lot of them can be vexatious and trolling. In an age where there is blatant oppression and imbalance; how many of can remain silent? Sangaré is concerned with the plight of women in Mali and keen to champion women’s rights. If more musicians became involved in the kinds of movements I feel we can all see positive change and greater unity. Music is a hugely influential and visible presence. It is not false representation or dishonest using music as a way of communicating problems around the globe. Away from the love songs and samey songs; there are very few expressing something like women’s rights and discrimination. Mali is a nation where women are seen as inferior; children forced to marriage and all manner of ill practices continue unabated. One can say many African, poorer nations have always been like this. Just because it has been going on for decades (centuries in some cases) does not mean we should stand aside. Working with the U.N., Sangaré is keen to vocalise her disgust at the disgrace and feculent events she has witnessed. This kind of backwards, Neolithic thinking is not just reserved to developing nations. The Third World is our world: we are all part of the same planet and need to show that. There are horrific occurrences in every country and I often feel annoyed more musicians do not use their opportunity to raise these issues to the masses – at the very least, broaden their horizons. Depeche Mode, in their latest single, are asking Where’s the Revolution? It is a question that needs answering and one Sangaré would be keen to project, I am sure.
One is able to freely sample all of Oumou Sangaré’s work online. In terms of difference and development; I would say songs like Yere Faga is a step beyond and stronger than anything she has released for a while. It has that core sound and all the threads one would expect. Her voice sounds at its peak whilst the musicianship and composition are more alive and vibrant than ever. It seems she is reacting to the world around her and has created a song that seems to respond to the times we live in but, more generally, it discusses human relationships and Sangaré’s traditional topics are all laid out. If you want a good idea of where she came from and the music available; I would suggest seeking out Mossolou (released in 1989). It shows how she started out and the sort of songs that got her name known. It is a six-track collection that crackles with possibilities, colours and depth. Ko Sira and Mogoya are albums that followed and expand upon Sangaré’s earliest work. If you are looking for something fairly recent; perhaps Seya would be the best option. It is an album that means ‘joy’. It was her first release in five years (released in 2009) and presented that world of sound she is renowned for. I would say Sangaré has always been exceptional but I have noticed, since Seya, she has hit new heights. Perhaps it is the new instruments and ideas she is playing with; some of the collaborations but there does seem to be something extraordinary happening. It is wonderful hearing an artist who has managed to remain consistent and inventive without losing any momentum – in fact, she seems to have gained it.
Yere Faga is the new track and one that has been garnering a lot of praise and attention. As the lyrics are not in English – I cannot see any lyrics online – so one has to extrapolate and learn from the vocals. It is a dynamic and racing opening that has those Tony Allen beats coming through. When Sangaré comes to the microphone, her voice is at its most direct and luscious. The way the heroine’s voice weaves and presents is exceptional. The phrasing and accentuation make certain syllables jump whilst overs are whispered; some are more precise and bold. The beats keep firm and strong but do not deviate too much to begin. It is a typically assured and strong performance from Tony Allen and one that perfectly matches the song. I was caught by the tease and funkiness of the percussion which manages to be simple but says so much. Sangaré is a vixen and Siren whose voice has that alluring quality and strength. A.l.b.e.r.t. bring that modernity to the vocals and update Sangaré’s voice. She sounds at her freshest and most direct within Yere Faga. It is a song that starts off with that alluring hip-shake and tight performance. As things develop, you become hooked by the composition-vocal blend. If one wants a translation of the lyrics, I am sure there will be one included with the album, Mogoya. It has been eight years since she released an album and you can hear all that passion and determination shine through. The lead-off single continues to inspire and intrigue in the early stages. Our heroine’s voice is full of life but seems to touch on a range of emotions – loss and deceit; the bonds that tie us and the things we all have in common. Those who are not used to African/Mali music are eased in by a production and performance that is accessible and universal. The beats continue on their quest whilst Sangaré’s voice multiplies and lift into the chorus. You get a breezy blast of multi-tracked voices that provides a sweetness and rush. It is a festival of vocals and sounds that all melt together in that moment.
One hears a bassline emerge: one that snakes and slithers with dance and meaning; it is a taut and focused line that perfectly backs the vocal and blends with percussion. As things continue, that energy and colour never fade. There is always a movement and physicality to the track which means the listener becomes directly involved. You cannot escape the smile and persistence of Yere Faga. It looks at us as humans and the range of differences and emotions – such a rich and vivacious track. You do not need to know, necessarily, what is being sung as the emotion and feeling of the song are much more important. The heroine lets her voice dip and calms slightly for a second. The atmosphere and mood come down to allow the bass to come up-front; there is a little fleck of electric guitar and a backing vocal comes through. It is a pivotal juncture that allows one to breathe and the song to regroup. So much commitment, energy and passion have been laid out, you need that pause to collect yourself before the next wave. That does come, and with it, nuance and new ideas from Yere Faga. Sangaré is always in command willing to try new ideas. The track never rests on its laurels and has that sense of unexpected and changeable. At every stage, one is immersed in the sound and very human delivery. That voice is as rich and pure as they come: never has it sounded quite as striking and revealing as it does here. Similarly, all the traditional instruments and sounds remain – those one would have enjoyed in Sangaré’s earlier albums. The main difference one hears is a more polished production and a very modern representation of Afrobeats/Malian traditions. That does not betray its roots, more provide is a sense of contemporary currency. Making it easy to understand for new listeners – whilst not alienating those existing – it is a wonderful pairing (between artist and producers).
Even before the half-way mark, you are still entranced by the composition which remains simple but packs so much in there. That bass-and-percussion unity continues solidly and gives the songs it strength and discipline. As Sangaré lets her voice rise and breathe, you get little stabs and lightning-flash of electric guitar. It is not a long sound but one that comes in sharp and adds a little cut and teeth to proceedings. All of this together and one experiences something quite special. Yere Faga is a study in simplicity and talent over complexities and false economy. You do not need to pack everything into a song to make it memorable and effective. With a few instruments and that lead voice, you have a song that makes you dance and think at the same time. The hips are kept motivated and engaged but the mind presses for interpretation and answers. Knowing the origins of people and humans – what connects and divides them – one can get their own impressions and ideas from the song. Yere Faga always keeps you hooked and intrigued as it races, darts and dances between the notes. What one finds – as the song comes to the latter stages – is the emphasis on the instruments and vocals. The electric guitar becomes more involved and plays a bigger role. You get those Funkadelic-esque little spritzes but it is more fleshed-out and rounded. The bass seems more alive and volumised whilst the vocal, once more, shows something new. You cannot deny the sense of entrance and fascination within the song. Yere Faga keeps you guessing but, in a way, its meanings are clear. It is that music and vocal that are changeable and evolving. Sangaré remains in the spotlight and that gravitational force that everything else revolves around. Another sensational and mesmeric song from one of the music world’s true treasures.
I’ll come back to my original points in concluding this review but want to look ahead at Sangaré’s 2017. Her album is released on 19th May and she will be taking to the stage at Scala three days previous. That is one of those London venues, like the Roundhouse or Union Chapel that has that incredible presence and reputation. I am not sure whether there are any more London dates planned or U.K. dates confirmed. Given the subject matter and prescience of Mogoya; there are going to be people all around who would love to see Sangaré in the flesh. This year is an exciting one for new music so I would expect some imminent announcements relating to Sangaré’s touring plans. That Scala gig will be amazing. It is such an iconic and fantastic space: a perfect time of year that will bring bodies and love into the venue. I will try and get down there but will certainly check her out sooner rather than later. In assessing an artist like Oumou Sangaré, one cannot define in purely in musical terms. Motivation and activism are not a result of poverty and disadvantage – it is the duty and right or every civilian, regardless of economic and social stature, to ingrain themselves in retaliation. I know continents like Africa are more susceptible to occurrences, we here, might find abhorrent and inhuman. It is not the fault of the majority but a largely male minority who have a stranglehold on the most vulnerable. The women of countries like Mali are fearful to stand up to the oppressive lash of their male counterparts. Child marriages – if it happened here there would be a national outcry – seem to go largely unreported and anonymous. We here cannot comprehend the appalling reality many women have to live under – not just grown-ups but children. Sangaré has escaped a nation that, despite a massive amount of love and wonderful people, is struggling to contain issues like polygamy is still rife. Sangaré campaigns against it and keen to shine a spotlight on the issues in her home nation.
Sangaré has such a high international profile, I am not sure how she manages to balance all her responsibilities. She has collaborated with artists like Alicia Keys and Tracy Chapman and featured on the soundtrack of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Aside from her ambassadorial role for the U.N., as part of their Food and Agricultural Organisation, is keen to aid those less fortunate – a humanitarian who has inspired countless others. She also has three businesses in Mali – a range of S.U.V.s called Oum-Sang; a hotel in Bamako and Oumou Sangaré Rice – grown in her own fields. Since 1990’s Moussolou – through 1993’s Ko Sira; Worotan in 1996; Oumou (2003) and Sya (2009) – we have seen the rise and development of one of music’s true icons. The finest female singer to hail from the African continent: music is at the heart of everything Sangaré does. She has said it herself: “without it I’m nothing and nothing can take it from me”. When speaking about Mogoya, and its new techniques and ideas, she went on to say: “It was new for me because my music has never had this kind of arrangement and sound before. I’ve been totally in the tradition for years now so to get out of that and have a look around elsewhere was a total pleasure”. It has been genuinely eye-opening discovering someone who puts music and people at the heart of her agenda. I’ll briefly wrap-up my early points but want to go back to that U.N. role and how Sangaré aims to make the world a better place. Of course, Mali is a nation few of us think about and even know where it is – officially the Republic of Mali, it is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa. It does not matter if you were born there or only visit: if you see and hear about things like child marriages and polygamy you would not be able to shake that off. Even if Sangaré did not have that U.N. platform, she would still be an advocate of equality and peace.
Sangaré is someone who sees disturbing and worrying practices and cannot stand by and see it all happen. Not only does her passion and determination help make real change – it will compel other musicians to become more involved in society and important causes. Maybe that is just as vital as the music itself: causing someone to look at the world around them and make the world better and safer. Nearly three-decades into an extraordinary career, one would assume Sangaré would slow things down and delegate a few responsibilities. If anything, the unfettered and rampant poverty – both monetary and morally – is an impetus to become busier and more active. Let’s hope others do learn from her example and help eradicate some of the planet’s ills. I will wrap it up but will take another look at three things: Mali and Afrobeats music; getting nods from legends and new artists alike; performance and delivery as a thing to consider for all artists. I have given a list of some of the artists who have put Malian music on the map. At the moment, there are a few local musicians who could translate into other continents and bring that incredible culture to the mainstream. We have all heard of Ali Farka Touré and what he has brought to music. There is no one particular ‘sound’ when it comes to Malian music. Perhaps the compositions and instrumentation is a little simpler – percussion that utilises metals and found objects – and something that mixes tribal movements and a real flavour of Africa. The messages, often spiritual and religious, are backed by incredibly evocative vocals. It is a country we only really hear about through established acts. Sangaré is someone who makes me want to delve more into Mali and the beautiful, rich culture is has provided. We, here, are probably more used to Afrobeats and some of the new Urban artists sprinkling into their music. London seems at the forefront of this movement.
In the coming years, I predict we will hear a lot more African music make its way into commercial music. The mainstream is becoming stale and stagnated so something needs to happen. Experimentation is occurring but the results are rather mixed. Even if it is a case of promoting Afrobeats more or encouraging new artists to borrow more from African movements. Genres like Rap and Hip-Hop – where many of its patrons are of African-American decent – feel that connection and familial tie. Maybe it is a result of rigid tastes and proclivities but modern British music is not as all-encompassing and bold as I would like. I am not suggesting a wave of new musicians pour over African sounds and incorporate it heavily. As the incredible Trip-Hop artists of the 1990s proved: employing some African elements, gingerly at times, can lead to some provocative and stunningly powerful music. My greatest hope is the spirit and ethos of Mali/Africa’s musicians are the biggest influence. That desire to connect with your fellow man and addresses the troubles and triumphs around you. I feel too many new acts are obsessed with their own lives and screw-ups. The way Oumou Sangaré has been established since the start of her career. She is at a stage where her music needs to be taken to heart and studied. It is having an effect on her established fanbase but recruiting new supporters to the fold. Sampha, as mentioned, is a convert and someone who, one suspects, has a similar approach to music. He is one of the conscientious artists who not only talks about their own lives but is concerned with that is happening in the world. Not only does Sampha’s support mean Sangaré will reach a new generation – invaluable ensuring young listeners get to witness a very special talent. Tony Allen plays on Sangaré’s latest album and brings his expertise and authority to the music. That distinguished and established percussion adds a lot of story, heat and character to the record.
Having that blend of young and older musicians throwing their weight behind the music is the result of an artist who speaks for everyone and wants people to be inspired by her music. It is easy to be seduced and affected by Yere Faga. It is a song that excited and appeals upon first listen but elicit different responses the more you hear it. I will follow her work and see how it progresses over the years. It is a very strange time to become a musician. There is a lot going on in society and politics but I find few artists reflecting the troubles we all see. Maybe it takes a deft touch or keen mind to appropriately document the division around the world but I feel there is a general apathy and selfishness. Oumou Sangaré is someone who could lead to some real changes and positivity in music. She is based in the U.K. and perfectly placed to motivate many of our young musicians. If you have not discovered her music and know where she comes from, I suggest spending a bit of time getting to know her. She is a fascinating artist who is a refreshing change to the rather boring and shallow artists we can get these days. Mogoya is her latest album and one of the finest things she has put her name to. It is a masterful and compelling work that suggests she has…
MANY more years ahead.
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