Tiken Jah Fakoly: Political War

This was a concert with an edge. Circumstances conspired to lift this performance from one of beautifully arranged and composed music onto another level; here crowd and artist shared not only in each others’ sounds, but in their souls too.

Arguably Ivory Coast’s most political contemporary musician was performing his most politically conscious album, at a time when his country had sunk into a civil war that has cost some 1500 lives.

“Nobody hoped the situation would reach this stage. Il faut cedez le fauteuil, le pouvoir  [literally, you must hand over the ‘presidential armchair’, power]” Tiken Jah Fakoly tells me, in reference to Ivory Coast’s former president, Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the election to Alassane Ouattara but refused to cede control. At the time of this interview, Gbagbo was desperately clinging to power whilst hiding in a bunker under his house in Abidjan.

That night, 4 April 2011, the Barbican theatre was almost entirely on its feet, swaying to reggae melodies layered with distinctly West African sounds drawn from the charms of the kora, ngoni, and balafon (all recently added to his band). An Ivorian fan from the crowd, draped in his national flag, ran across the theatre and up onto the stage, handing Tiken the emblem in a purely symbolic gesture.

“The European Union, the United States, the African Union – they all demanded Gbagbo leave, and he refused. In history, sometimes force is the only way. Negotiating didn’t work. Sadly we arrived at this situation” laments Tiken, whose rusty voice in itself seems to carry the pain of a nation’s suffering.


One could be forgiven for believing Tiken Jah Fakoly had been building his entire career up to this moment. African Revolution was released in late 2010. Perhaps the album’s most memorable song is Political War, featuring Nigerian soul singer Asa, who performed alongside Tiken at the Barbican. It’s a plaintive story of political disillusion based on their parents’ experiences in Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Their eponymous chorus rings in the ears like the wailing of the bereaved. Tiken was performing for the first time in London just as the violence in Ivory Coast had intensified into one of the world’s worsening humanitarian crises. This was a concert that mattered.

But in fact, lyrically, Tiken’s music has been politically conscious for some time. From 1993 he began to move away from the metaphor traditionally adopted by griot musicians, which is his heritage, into more direct political attacks after the death of Ivory Coast’s long-standing president Félix Houphouey-Boigny.

“I think if the politicians had listened to me years ago, things would not have turned out this way. In Le Caméléon (first released across West Africa in 2000, then internationally in 2008), I made it clear to people in West Africa that things were bad, that they had to stop, and I wasn’t alone – Alpha Blondy and Ismaël Isaac were also saying politicians needed to be checked.

This approach has both increased his regional and international popularity and risked him his life. Subjected to death threats, he left Abidjan in 2003. He was then banned from Senegal after criticizing its president in 2007 and over the past few years exiled himself in Bamako, Mali, due to the political instability blighting the Ivory Coast.

In the complex world of international politics and advocacy in which Tiken now operates, which would be the one change he would like to see in African politics.

“The struggle against corruption in Africa. With corruption, development is difficult. The wealth of natural resources cannot go to the people. Politicians need to stop talking about ending corruption and put together effective laws and acts that will prevent it from happening.”

What of the role of the external actors, the western donors?

“I don’t think the international community needs to help us. We are not children. We are sovereign. We can take our own route.”

If any artist could embody this route, it would be Tiken Jah Fakoly. Musically, African Revolution is a conscious statement. It encompasses his early adoption of roots reggae, particularly Bob Marley’s, and indeed was partly recorded at Tuff Gong studio in Kingston. But the bulk of the album was produced and recorded in Bamako, under the instrumental influence of West Africa, his homeland. Ideologically, he’s clasped the torch of Peter Tosh, Marley and Ivorian reggae musicians to become a ‘truth teller’, speaking up against injustice. And for sheer on-stage bravura – with statuesque Black Panther salutes, cross-stage sprints, jumps, and flying kicks to drum beats – I saw him as African reggae’s answer to Mick Jagger.

“The role of the reggae musician is very important” he says. “The role is to wake up our children. Music can make people understand what is happening, when politicians say one thing and something else is happening.”

Tiken has developed an enormous following in West Africa. His 2003 Victoires de la Musique Award is a testament to his popularity in France. The growing fanbase across the world support him not just for his wonderful music but for his courage.  At the time of writing, his country’s erstwhile despot has reportedly fallen and the curfew has been lifted. Perhaps a new chapter is opening for Ivory Coast. Everyone is hoping it won’t be one of violence. Come what may, Tiken’s voice will continue to sound, loud and clear.


Rokia Traore

Rokia Traoré looks poised. The Malian songstress sits thoughtfully at the edge of her seat. She considers my questions backstage at the Maison des Arts in Paris. In a few hours she will be performing her rich, soulful music to another rapt audience. Traoré has amassed a sizeable following since breaking onto the scene over ten years ago with her first album, Mouneïssa, released in 1998. 40,000 copies were sold in Europe. Traoré became an African music sensation. But one senses that fame means little to her.  “I could never do anything commercial” she says. “I don’t think like that. I just do what I feel.”

Traoré is complex, intelligent and sensitive. She ‘feels’ a lot in her speech. She tells me “sometimes I react more to peoples’ way of behaving than what they say. I’m very sensitive to people”. Her experience as a diplomat’s daughter, growing up in Nigeria, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Algeria, gave her the time and experiences conducive to seek avenues for creative expression. “I started by writing. Travelling a lot, I had lots of time and began using music as a way of expressing myself,” she pauses, “it was a kind of therapy. There’s a paradox, as singing is both selfish and generous.”

Traoré grew up listening to the music of legendary Guinean griot Sory Kandia Kouyate and British group Dire Straits. Traditional West African and guitar-based western music were already becoming broad sources of musical inspiration.  But ironically it was rap that made Traoré’s name in Mali. Influenced by the likes of Public Enemy and Snap! Traoré and her brothers formed a hip hop collective called “Let’s fight”. Two of their songs were aired on national TV.

Following her mother’s advice, however, Rokia returned to her roots. By 1997 she was collaborating with Ali Farka Touré, who would become a major figure in her life, and over the next six years Traoré produced three critically acclaimed albums. The latest, Tchamantché, won her the best artist award of the 2009 Songlines Music Awards. The album is an intriguing collection of music, sensuously combining bluesy Gretsch guitar licks with West African ngoni plucks to produce a distinct sound, softened by jazz drum patter and Traoré’s feminine voice that can somehow sound forceful yet fragile.

Traoré sings mostly in Bambara, yet the album includes songs in French and English. Her dazzlingly original version of Gershwin’s ‘The Man I Love’ reflects her willingness to invert existing standards. This same characteristic saw Traoré construe Mozart as a thirteenth century griot of the Mande Empire for director Peter Sellars at the New Crowned Hope festival in 2006. Held in London and Vienna, the festival was celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Austrian composer. Traoré’s artistry clearly doesn’t shirk from the big occasion.

Her continuing desire to experiment sees her touring the UK in April and May with Sweet Billy Pilgrim, the Mercury Prize-nominated British trio likened to Radiohead for their wistful art-pop pieces. They and Traoré performed beautifully together at the Barbican last year, and the upcoming shows promise to be especially intriguing. “I’m very happy and excited about the idea. I love collaborations, especially with people with a music background so different from mine as it means I will learn.”

As we near the end of our interview, I understand that Rokia keenly wants others less fortunate to have the chance to learn too. Since December 2009 Traoré has invested her energies in Passerelle, (meaning ‘bridge’ in French) her foundation which aims to help develop Mali’s music industry by providing artists with greater opportunities to play. She has the advantage of her childhood upbringing, giving her know-how when it comes to forging third sector partnerships. The Fondation Passerelle’s first live event will take place on the Niger riverside by Mali’s capital in mid-May. If she can achieve a fraction of her success as a singer songwriter in this endeavour then Bamako’s young hopefuls should be counting themselves very lucky.


Seun Kuti: The Beat Goes On

“Music can do anything” says Seun Kuti. His eyes flash with a youthful energy, dominating a round face with grizzly scrubs of facial hair.

Seun Kuti

“Look back at history” he says, “art in general. Governments have always tried to buy artists. Art inspires you. If I was to become really big and win like two or three Grammys, the government would become afraid of me. I wouldn’t be a billionaire; I wouldn’t have an army, but people would listen to me. Art has power.”

Few African artists would understand this better than Seun Kuti. Born into a Yoruba family of unusual cultural and political engagement (writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is a relation), the Nigerian 28 year-old’s fate is unique. He’s the youngest son of the legendary founder of Afrobeat music, Fela Kuti, whose reputation as political rebel is virtually without equal in the history of modern African music.

Fela Kuti’s 1977 album Zombie was a scathing attack on the complicity and brutality of Nigerian soldiers working under the country’s military ruler General Olesegun Obasanjo. The release and popularity of the record caused such controversy that Fela’s commune and recording studio, the Kalakuta Republic, was attacked and burned by a thousand soldiers, with several killings and Fela suffering torture.

After his death from AIDS in 1997, more than a million people attended Fela Kuti’s funeral at the site of the Shrine, his old nightclub, which had also been destroyed by the military in the late 1970s. While Afrobeat was a tremendously exciting genre musically, this kind of following came from the way Fela Kuti spoke to, and for, the masses. Fela’s appeal was extraordinary because he voiced the biggest political and social problems that no-one had previously even dared to do, let alone so directly, publicly and emphatically.

Seun Kuti is clearly a proud son. “I’m lucky to come from my father’s sperm, my father’s jingo”; I look up from my notepad and his eyes glint with a mischief that streaks through his conversation. “My father’s ideology was to confront tyranny” he says. “He didn’t believe in using arms, but he did believe in standing your ground.”

Seun is standing his ground across the treacherous political landscapes that blight so many African countries. To him the perfidious role of the ‘international community’ is as aggravating as the corruption that mars national development on the continent.

“Laurent Gbagbo is a tyrant. He needs to go. But Laurent Gbagbo is a product of policy in Africa. He was a government puppet placed there to support the interests of European and US multinationals. He forgot that he should be serving the people. Shell provided boats with which our own people could kill each other.”

“They are all dancing in Africa to tunes being played in the West” he concludes forcefully.

On Obama, he says, “I was a fan. Not now. An African man ordering bomb strikes on African soil? He should be ashamed of himself. Protecting Bengazi from a massacre…” he wrinkles up his face, “Come on, why didn’t they protect Nigerians when our leaders were killing their people? We suffered two genocides…”

Would he choose a career in politics? “I’m already a politician. Not a professional politician. I’d like to create a group of authentic African politicians [reviving Fela’s Movement of the People party has been cited as an idea]. I love my role as a critic” he says.

But isn’t the real challenge in making tough political decisions?  “If you have political responsibility for a long time, you get tunnel vision” he responds, adding, “a leader is only as good as his advisers.” His conversation is compelling; insightful, provocative and humorous.

Seun has recognised that he can be more than his father’s son. Since becoming the lead singer of Fela’s old Egypt 80 band at the age of 14 in 1997, he’s embraced his heritage but adapted himself both musically and politically to our times.

His latest album, From Africa With Fury: Rise with Egypt 80, still includes many of the old musicians, and still channels jazz, funk and high-life-inspired Afrobeat music, but has been produced in London with Brian Eno, a production legend in his own right and pioneer of Ambient music. And whereas Fela would mostly rile against military dictatorship, today Seun is attacking multinationals like Monsanto and Halliburton.

Seun’s political diatribe is offset by a lighter exuberance to his personality. Clearly an entertainer in the mold of his father, Seun has a habit of performing half naked on stage with just a sax slung over his neck. We talk about hip hop production in Africa and he feels disappointed by “people promoting bubblegum hip hop” and sneers at “David Guetta on the beats!” adding “but I love it when I’m in a club and I’m drunk, [laughing]”.

If anything, being Fela’s son and part of such a family seems to have taught Seun that he can be anything he wants, and simultaneously be all these different things. Like his father, Seun, I sense, will make people laugh, cry, love and rage all at the same time. Which of course makes him a fascinating and powerful individual, and one well worth listening to.


Oumou Sangare – The Malian Songbird Returns

In the galaxy of West African music, Oumou Sangare really is one of the brightest stars. She was a star in Mali before Nick Gold went to Bamako in 1991. When the World Circuit label founder visited that year, he said he heard the same beautiful voice being played out on cassettes at markets, in cafés, shop stalls, bus stations. All over the city, Oumou Sangare was in the air. “You couldn’t escape that music. And you didn’t want to. It was everywhere. As soon as you left a café where they were playing it, the baton was taken up by a passing car and then the next market stall. I spent that week in Bamako hearing Oumou wherever I went. And I mean everywhere” he says. She was 22. After signing to Gold’s label, Sangare’s debut Moussoulou (‘Women’) became an international phenomenon and, along with Salif Keita and Ali Farka Touré, she was an early global ambassador for music from Mali, a country that has more recently given us Amadou & Mariam and Bassekou Kouyaté.

Sangare is gifted with a voice that can ululate like birdsong yet carries with it enormous emotional depth. Her upbringing was anything but easy. With an absent father, and a mother who often had to leave the household when Sangare was a girl, she grew up fast. “I was the mother, I was the father, at the age of 13 I was already head of the family. And that’s what has given me strength in my life. I learnt very early how to be responsible.” At this early age Sangare learnt how to be tenacious, and how to make money. And her greatest resource was her voice. “I’d wait until I heard a djembe…I would throw myself in the middle of the crowd and sing. When I opened my mouth…wow! People would give me coins.” This combination of talent and determination eventually brought Sangare enormous success.

“Since I’d been absent for a while, my intention was to produce something joyful”, she says, then adds, “but in amongst that joy I always take the opportunity to slip in messages that educate my nation and my country.” Part of Sangare’s huge appeal is her ability to simultaneously communicate both traditional and modern themes within her songs. Seya is rich with reference to her family’s Wassoulou culture. Donso is a song about the hunter-warrior caste who used to protect towns in pre-colonial days. Other songs reflect Sangare’s more modern ideas, albeit set in time-honoured themes. Sounsoumba (‘Big tree’) concerns a girl who before marrying was a Sounsoum Ba, a big tree, vibrant and alive, whose many branches signify her many friendships, but once forced into marriage she becomes a lonely, little tree stump.

Sangare’s outspoken campaigns for women’s rights have made her a powerful, if at times controversial, figure in Africa. She is an Ambassador of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as well as other organizations that look for role models who speak out against gender inequality on the continent. “In Mali I became famous for the message contained in my music – the rights of women, the rights of children too.” While there is often a social and political significance to her songs, Sangare’s popularity comes above all from the sheer quality of her music; the rhythms, the melodies, the instrumentation and of course, her extraordinary, deeply moving voice.


Tunng with Tinariwen – Soho meets the Sahara

The BBC Radio 3 ‘Late Junction’ session was a grand experiment. Saharan desert blues legends Tinariwen shared the Maida Vale studio with Soho-based folktronica group Tunng to record three songs for broadcast in February 2009. The results were dazzling.

“We sat down together in a circle”, explains Mike Lindsay from Tunng.“The third tune we made kind of came out of jamming that led into an eight minute trance. Someone pressed play and then eventually stop on the recorder. It was a real ‘wow’ moment.”

“Then someone had an idea to go further and actually organize a tour together”, says Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni from Tinariwen, “We were keen on the idea, because as musicians, it’s very important to interact with and learn from other musicians.”

I ask them how their different sounds complement each other.

Abdallah: “It’s clear that their music is very different from ours, but it’s very open too. It’s the kind of music that invites other musicians and other sounds to join in.”

Mike: “The recordings together were very fresh, almost a new music entirely. In some instances we’ll need to be careful not to go overboard on certain electronics.” Mike is sensitive to the cultural and musical differences between the groups. Tinariwen’s distinctive desert blues, whose fans include Thom Yorke and Bono, is charged with powerful electric guitar chords and singing that carries the full weight of their message. Their music encompasses their mission: to raise awareness for desert peoples living in political and economic isolation in the southern Sahara. You can easily imagine their songs resonating across vast desert plains.

Tunng, on the other hand, fuse delicate electronic touches with contemporary folky sounds. Hearing the melodies that underscore their songs, it comes as no surprise to learn that Tunng member Sam Genders is a big Beatles fan. Both bands’ originality stems from the collective groups of individuals producing their music. I ask them how their environment has inspired them as artists and what currently influences them.

Abdallah: “Everything we sing, every word we say, everything we think and do has been shaped by the Sahara. The Sahara is our home, our cradle, our teacher and our inspiration. Until most of us were adults, we didn’t know anything except the Sahara.”

Mike: “Being in London hasn’t really influenced our music. Perhaps subconsciously the city has influenced the urban electronic work me and Phil (Winter) come up with. Other influences; dodgy ‘80s powerpop, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra. And I’m not really joking! We listen to all sorts. Moondog recently. All sorts of Latin percussion. Deerhoof.”

The ensemble, which features three members of Tinariwen, have spent some intense time together preparing their set before the tour kicks off. Their music encompasses “entirely different subject matters” says Mike.

Abdallah admits, “I can’t claim that I really understood Tunng’s music before”. Will the universal language of music transcend these enormous differences? On their own, both these bands have had an extraordinary impact crossing genres and reaching new audiences. This collaborative effort promises to be inspiring.


Baaba Maal – Voice of the people

One of Africa’s biggest stars, Baaba Maal, will be playing ten concerts across the UK in March with his acclaimed band Daande Lenol (Voice Of The People) as part of the African Soul Rebels tour. The bill also features the Kenyan-American benga-rock band Extra Golden, and Zimbabwean giant Oliver Mtukudzi with the Black Spirits.

Maal is clearly excited at the prospect.

‘It’s always great to tour with other people. It’s a great opportunity for us to play together, discover together, share our music and bring new ideas and combinations to people.’

His unique voice and frenetic stage dances are as youthful as ever, but Baaba Maal is not new to the game. Born in the 1950s in Podor in Senegal, his early influences are as diverse as his music suggests.

‘My parents were musicians. My father was a religious musician, a muezzin. My mother was a popular singer. I watched them. I used to sing with my mother. Everyone noticed I had a great voice – me too! I realised I wanted to be a musician.’

From an early age Maal was aware of his Fula heritage.

‘The place where I was born in central Senegal was an important cultural centre. Nomadic groups from Mauritania and other neighbouring countries would stay in our town, and the Fula people shared this nomadic culture, which of course included music.’

Maal grew up during Africa’s wave of independence movements. He was strongly influenced, he says, by the theme of liberation that marked the music of the 1960s, particularly in Guinea, with legendary orchestra Bembeya Jazz getting special mention.

Maal’s music education was furthered by a postgraduate music scholarship at the Beaux-Arts University in Paris where he spent several years with his close friend, the blind griot guitarist Mansour Seck. After a number of prior cassettes and albums, they collaborated to produce the beautifully serene ‘Djam Leelii’ in 1989. The album was my introduction to West African music and it remains an absolute classic. Mostly complex string patterns overlaid with Maal’s crisp, high, distinctive voice; sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, here he set a precedent for producing songs that evoke an unusual range of human emotions.

‘When I write a song or go to the studio or go on stage to perform’, he says, ‘I sing music like melodies. But the words that come from my mouth are, I think, the words of the people. It is the people inside me. In Africa, people live with music. Music accompanies ceremonies that teach people about responsibilities and society.’

Having played concerts all over Africa, Maal is familiar with many of the challenges facing the continent and takes an active position when it comes to using his music as a platform for social and health issues. He represents the United Nations Development Program as a spokesman on the issue of HIV/Aids in Africa as well as being an ambassador for Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign. Two decades on Baaba Maal remains a key figure in African music. He has performed all over the world and produced over a dozen albums, at times embarking on brave fusion experiments incorporating ragga, rap, salsa and even Breton harp into his repertoire. He has worked with a range of producers, including Brian Eno on 1998 release Nomad Soul.

More recently he took part in Africa Express shows in London, Lagos and Liverpool – the live collaboration project conceived by Damon Albarn feature African, American and UK musicians including Franz Ferdinand, Amadou & Mariam, The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Daara J and many more.

The new édition bootleg On the Road, a collection of his favourite live acoustic performances, is the artist’s first album release in seven years. Acoustic sets will define Baaba Maal’s African Soul Rebels performances this March – it is always a huge treat to hear him play with Daande Lenol, a line-up which still includes long-time collaborator and friend Mansour Seck, this is an all-time classic African live music act. Not to be missed!


Toumani Diabate – My mission is to play

toumaniHe plays in the Hogon club, Bamako, at Carnegie Hall, New York, and the Barbican, London. He has played with Damon Albarn, Taj Mahal and Peter Gabriel, with Bassekou Kouyaté, Ballaké Sissoko, Baaba Maal, and a thousand other African greats, most of whom remain unknown to the world at large. For Toumani Diabaté, Mali’s great kora maestro, the most important thing is to keep playing.

“My mission is to play” he says. And so far he’s doing pretty well. The 42-year old Diabaté started learning the kora, West Africa’s 21-stringed harp-like instrument, when he was five. Since then he has performed at over 2000 concerts and more than 170 festivals.

Diabaté is descended from 70 generations of griots, a West African term meaning praise-singer, poet, or bard. His heritage is rich with musical talent and an innate understanding of the social obligations of the role, whose origins can be found in the 13th century courts of the Malinke Empire. His father Sidiki Diabaté was known as the ‘King of the kora’; internationally famous before the commercial brand ‘world music’ existed.

‘The griot is the memory of West Africa’ says Diabaté. ‘We are the archive, the bibliothèque of West Africa. In the 13th century during the Malinke empire, when the kings were living in Mali, there was no-one to write about what was happening; there were no historians. Music is one of the best ways to communicate’. On the broader, quasi-diplomatic functions of his caste he adds,

‘The griot helps to organise the ceremony of birth and weddings. The griot is a peacemaker between men and women, between nations’.

Hearing him play at Womad this year was a hypnotic experience. The dulcet, melodious trickles of sound he creates via his fingertips are simply mesmerizing. These multi-layered, almost transcendental compositions won him a Grammy in 2006, in his collaboration with the late Ali Farka Touré, producing the widely-acclaimed album, In the Heart of the Moon. It becomes clear that it is the sheer beauty of his music that dignifies such ceremonies with a grace borne of religious origins.

‘I am spiritual’ says Diabaté, ‘Mali is 95 per cent Muslim. I was born into that. My music was never written. The music I have is divine inspiration’.

Clearly Toumani Diabaté keeps himself busy. His diverse collaborations and musical journeying bear witness to a creative endeavour unparalleled among contemporary African artists. From unique albums with Spanish flamenco band Ketama and bluesman Taj Mahal, to the grand collaborations of Albarn-inspired Africa Express and Mali Music, Diabaté is always open to new ideas. In October 2008 he played with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) at the Barbican.

‘It was an honour. I enjoyed it because it is a very prestigious orchestra’ he says in his casual way. Diabaté’s English accent and language reflect the French and American influences on his life and career.

‘Yeah, they (LSO) are great musicians, the venue was great. It was a very good opportunity. Today when you take African music, some people only think about percussion but in Africa we have more than that. The LSO’s music is not exclusively theirs. The LSO and I play the same classical music, close to the origin’.

When it comes to the business of next year’s work, he becomes secretive.

‘Insha’Allah (God willing) there will be a tour next year’, he says. ‘I will be continuing with The Mandé Variations project and working on some other different projects as well. I hope people will like what we produce’.

People have been dazzled by the virtuosity of The Mandé Variations, nominated for Best Album of 2008 by fRoots magazine. All-acoustic, it is Toumani’s first album of solo kora since his groundbreaking debut, ‘Kaira’, released almost twenty years ago. This year’s album has won praise in particular for its evocation of more traditional themes after the bolder, more experimental Boulevard de l’Indépendence, which he produced together with his Symmetric Orchestra in 2006.

When asked about other contemporary African musicians, Diabaté points out that ‘Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world financially, but today it is one of the number one countries culturally – Bassekou Kouyaté, Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangaré, Ali Farka Touré – all great artists in different ways, and all from Mali’. To emphasize the depth and diversity of his homeland’s wealth of performing artists, he adds, ‘You only know about 5 per cent of Mali’s music scene’.

And despite his elevated position among this pool of extraordinary talents, and the hyperbole that is often employed to describe his work, Diabaté maintains a mild, relaxed manner. There’s always a hint of humour in his eyes. He seems happy. The more excitable youth touring in the late 1980s has given way to a mellow, modest man. Perhaps his spirituality and a consciousness of his ancestry have instilled in Diabaté a genuine humility as well as a sense of responsibility.

‘I would like to do something for my people’ he states. One can be sure that most Malians who have had the privilege of hearing him play, not to mention the Friday night regulars at the Hogon club, would argue he’s already doing exactly that.