Category: African Diaspora Music


Founded in 2014 by Fez, Morocco-born, New York-based master musician Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer (sintir, vocals), the New York-based Grammy Award-nominated act Innov Gnawa, which currently features core members Casablanca, Morocco-born, New York-based Amino Belyamani (chorus, qraqeb, piano) and Salé, Morocco-born, New York-based Ahmed Jeriouda (chorus, qraqeb, cajon) and a cast of collaborators, specialize in Gnawa, the ritual trance music of Morocco.

Frequently refereed to as the Moroccan Blues or the Sufi blues, Gnawa is rooted in centuries of history with the musical genre and dance being traced to the mixing of rhythms and polytheistic spiritual beliefs of West Africa — primarily from what is now known as Mali and Mauritania — with Islam and Morocco’s indigenous culture. Lyrically, Gnawa songs are prayers and invocations to saints and spirits for liberation, peace and freedom from worldly suffering and so on. Geaturing unique instruments that are often handmade, including the lute-like sintir, he three-stringed African bass, the guembri, metal castanet-like qarqaba, which are used to pound out clattering and hypnotic rhythms, symbolically meant to represent the clinking and clanking of the slaves’ chains and shackles paired with call and response vocals, Gnawa possesses a hypnotic power that has won over audiences and musicians from all over the globe, including Jimi HendrixPaul Bowles and Randy Weston. And in the band’s native Morocco, the genre is revered as a treasured, indigenous soul music, much like the blues and country are to Americans. 

Produced by Daptone Records‘ founder and self-professed Gnawa enthusiast Gabriel Roth, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based act’s forthcoming album Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. Deriving its name for a Moroccan term for “night,” Lila is traditional ceremony in which the group dedicates an evening of cleansing and healing through music that was recorded in an epic five hour, one-take session. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Chorfa.” Clocking in at 13:51, “Chorfa” was centered around an expansive arrangement featuring the double bass-like guembri, the hypnotic polyrhythm of the qarqaba and call and response vocals led by the collective’s Ben Jafaar. The song finds the members of the acclaimed act tapping into a deeply spiritual and universal longing for freedom, clarity, peace and healing that feels — and of course sounds — older than time. “El Ghaba” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: the double bass-like guembri paired with the hypnotic clicking and clacking of the qarqaba and melodic call and response delivered vocals before ending in an explosive flourish. “Ask a forest dweller about primordial darkness and they will say it is beginning and end, mysterious and all-knowing, dreadful and welcoming, powerful yet invisible,” the band’s Amino Belyamani says of the song.

Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. 

New Video: Madagasacar’s LohArano Releases Another Mosh Pit Friendly Ripper

LohArano — Mahalia Ravoajanahary (vocals, guitar), Michael Raveloson (bass, vocals) and Natiana Randrianasoloson (drums, vocals) — is a rising Antananarivo, Madagascar-based trio that formed over six years ago. And since their formation, they’ve develop and honed a remarkably unique, boundary pushing sound that meshes elements of popular and beloved Malagasy musical styles — in particular, Tsapiky  and Salegy — with metal. The Antananarivo-based trio’s sound and approach represents a bold, new generation of young people in their homeland, a generation that respects and honors the traditions of their elders but roaring with the fierce urgency that our moment requires.

Building upon the buzz that they received with their debut single “Andrambavitany” and a handful of standalone singles, the members of LohArano released their self-titled debut EP last Friday. The EP’s latest single is “Tandroka” continues a run of enormous, mosh pit friendly rippers centered around a rumbling, down-tuned bass line, thunderous drumming, scorching guitar riffs and Mahalia Ravoajanahary’s Karen O-like vocals, which alternate between feral howls, screeching and shouting. We can’t have mosh pits for a bit longer — but play this one as loud as possible and remember what it was like to be colliding with sweaty bodies in a dark room.

Directed by Andriamanisa Radoniaina, the recently released video follows the trio as the embark on their every day life, from the band’s members getting up to start their day, meet up and rehearse, write material, play a friend’s house party — before moving up to an actual club.

New VIdeo: Ballaké Sissoko Teams Up with Nouveau Vague’s Camille on a Gorgeous New Single

Ballaké Sissoko is an acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player. who comes from a deeply musical family: Sissoko is the son of equally acclaimed, kora master Djelimady Sissoko, who may be best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father. Tragically. Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take the on the role of breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

The younger Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of scope of the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which, inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou is slated for an April 9, 2021 release through his long-time label home Nø Førmat Records. The album will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with a collection of diverse and unexpected artists outside of the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated globally, including Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. The label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he take the time to confirm enriching and challenging partnership with artists, who were fans of Sissoko’s work. The album took a painstaking yet fruitful two years to complete.

So far I’ve written about two of Djourou’s released singles:

“Frotter Les Mains,” deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” the mediative track is centered around the simple percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands back and forth, shimmering plucked kora and Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino’s dexterous and heady bars in French. While being a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and empathetic connection in a world that’s often batshit insane, the two artists make a virtual connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — with an important reminder that hip hop is the lingua franca of post-modern life.
Album title track “Djourou,” which sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh. Centered around the duo holding a musical conversation by trading expressive and shimmering, melodic kora lines paired with ethereal interwoven vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its collaborations making a vital connection — this time across both contemporary African borders and across time. Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa.

“When I met Ballaké, we said to ourselves that to talk to each other we had to play together, and that’s how we spoke best: we played under a tree, outside, and part of the melody came to me like that,” Camille recalls. “I wanted to write a song about the kora, the mystery of this instrument, and I started asking him questions: about woodwind, etc. but it’s not a luthier’s song, it’s a love song. Love is fire, love is water. And the sound of the kora is like flowing water.”

“Kora,” was realized with a simple yet strikingly shot bit of live footage shot in Paris’ Bois de Vincennes Park by Julien Borel and Vladimir Cagnolari , which captures the duo’s incredible musical simpatico.

New Audio: Acclaimed Act Innov Gnawa Releases a Gorgeous and Hypnotic Single

Founded in 2014 by Fez, Morocco-born, New York-based master musician Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer (sintir, vocals), the New York-based Grammy Award-nominated act Innov Gnawa, which currently features core members Casablanca, Morocco-born, New York-based Amino Belyamani (chorus, qraqeb, piano) and Salé, Morocco-born, New York-based Ahmed Jeriouda (chorus, qraqeb, cajon) and a cast of collaborators, specialize in gnawa, the ritual trance music of Morocco.

Frequently refereed to as the Moroccan Blues or the Sufi blues, Gnawa is rooted in centuries of history with the musical genre and dance being traced to the mixing of rhythms and polytheistic spiritual beliefs of West African — primarily from what is now known as Mali and Mauritania — with Islam and Morocco’s indigenous culture. Lyrically, Gnawa songs are prayers and invocations to saints and spirits for liberation, peace and freedom from worldly suffering and so on. Featuring unique instruments that are often handmade — including the lute-like sintir, the three-stringed African bass, the guembri, metal castanet-like qarqaba, which are used to pound out clattering and hypnotic rhythms, symbolically meant to represent the clinking and clanking the slaves’ chains and shackles — paired with call and response vocals, gnawa possesses a hypnotic power that has won over audiences and musicians from all over the globe, including Jimi Hendrix, Paul Bowles and Randy Weston. And in the band’s native Morocco, the genre is revered as a treasured, indigenous soul music, much like the blues and country are to Americans.

Produced by Daptone Records’ founder and self-professed Gnawa enthusiast Gabriel Roth, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based act’s forthcoming album Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. Deriving its name for a Moroccan term for “night,” Lila is traditional ceremony in which the group dedicates an evening of cleansing and healing through music that was recorded in an epic five hour, one-take session.

Clocking in at 13.51, Lila’s latest single “Chorfa” is a centered around an expansive arrangement featuring the double bass-like guembri, the hypnotic polyrhythm of the qarqaba and the call and response vocals led by the collective’s Ben Jafaar. The song, much like the rest of their work finds the act tapping into a deeply spiritual and universal longing for freedom, clarity, peace and healing that’s seemingly older than time with a gorgeous, heartfelt sincerity.

Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records.

New Video: Ballaké Sissoko Teams up With Rising Gambian Kora Player Sona Jobarteh on a Meditative Single

Ballaké Sissoko is an acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player. who comes from a rather musical family: Sissoko is the son of equally acclaimed, kora master Djelimady Sissoko, who may be best known for his work with Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the kora at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught the instrument by his father. Tragically,. Djelmady died while his children were very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take the on the role of breadwinner, eventually taking his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

The younger Sissoko has had a long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of scope of the Mandika people — i.e., flamenco guitar, sitar and others — which, inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Sissoko’s 11th album Djourou was originally scheduled for release this week — but its release has since been rescheduled for an April 19, 2021 release through his long-time label home Nø Førmat Records. The forthcoming album will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with a collection of diverse and unexpected artists outside of the Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated globally, including Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, young, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Interestingly, Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent Bizot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. The label and Sissoko mutually agreed that he take the time to confirm enriching and challenging partnership with artists, who were fans of Sissoko’s work. And as a result, the album has taken over two years to complete.

Late last year, I wrote about Djourou’s first single, the meditative and gorgeous “Frotter Les Mains,” which features acclaimed Malian-born, French-based emcee Oxmo Puccino. Deriving its title from the French phrase for “rub hands,” “Frotter Les Mains” is centered around the percussive element of Sissoko rubbing his hands, shimmering kora and Puccino’s dexterous and heady French lyrics. The end result is a song that’s simultaneously a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtfulness and kindness in a world that’s often batshit insane, a vital connection between the ancient and the modern, the West and Africa — and a reminder that hip hop has become the lingua franca that binds us all.

Djourou’s latest single, album title track “Djourou” is a mediative track that sees Sissoko collaborating with leading Gambian-born, female kora player Sona Jobarteh, centered around the duo trading shimming and expressive melodic bursts of kora paired with ethereal, interwoven vocals. Much like its immediate predecessor, the track finds its collaborators making a vital connection — this time across both contemporary African borders and across generations. Sissoko sought out Jobarteh with a specific wish to connect with the younger generation of kora players — to rejoin with their common forebears, to weave a connective thread across borders that were unknown and unimagined to the griots of the Malian Empire’s presence over much of West Africa.

“You grow up listening to somebody, and that’s the person that has in many ways been your teacher, your inspiration since a very young age,” Jobarteh says of her collaboration with the Malian-bor, Parisian-based kora master. “The first time I heard him, sounded so different to me, the tone that he gets out of the instrument is so different. He says something to me, the phrasing and the melody he picks – and he’s technically amazing, but he doesn’t let that become more than the music. That’s something I’ve always respected about him.”

Directed by Benoît Peverelli, the recently released video for “Djourou” features intimately shot footage of Sissoko and Jobarteh in the studio. The visual manages to convey the meditative peace of the song.

The Republic of Djibouti is a small country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Somaliland to the south, Ethiopia to the southwest, Eritrea to the north and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to the east. Interestingly, on the eve of the small East African country’s independence, a densely packed archive was pieced together in a quiet corner of the national radio. And over the years, it became an outstanding yet largely unknown archive that housed thousands of master reels and cassettes of some of the region’s finest sounds.

The archive has survived and endured fires and even theft of invaluable recordings. Those scars linger on the delicate films of quarter-inch reels and cassette tapes. And yet, it remains one for he most expansive, well-maintained archives in Africa — but it’s simultaneously been one of the most restrictive: for decades, the archives remained off-limits to foreign entities of any kind until 2019.

As Ostinato Records explains in press notes, they operate on the guiding principle that no physical historic recordings should leave a country and agreements with archives should be a win-win trade, not aid. Part of the deal for archival across and licensing rights included a finely refurbished Technics reel-to-real player from the ’70s with upgraded software to replace a worn-out model for RTD to continue their digital preservation of the entire archive in high quality.

Although it took several years of negotiations Ostinato Records became the first label granted access stop the archives of Radiodiffusion-Télevision de Djibouti (RTD), a vault of secrets and stories from East Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia, and of course Djibouti.

Somali supergroup 4 Mars, the act behind one of the most popular songs on their Grammy-nominated Sweet As Broken Dates compilation is the first chapter of their “Djibouti Archives” because of their incredibly rich, globalized sound reveals a new history of the world — and of music. For centuries, all roads lead to Horn of Africa. As a a major port and transit point connecting African, Asia and the Mediterranean, goods, ideas, foods, people and culture were briskly exchanged: Musically, Egyptian, Turkish, Arab, Persian, Indian and Chinese traders and tastemakers dropped anchor in Djibouti’s Gulf of Tadjoura, with each arrival influencing the region’s sound and aesthetic.

Today, a third of all world trade passes through Djibouti’s straits and a similar mix of diverse and eclectic characters roam the streets and docks. Reportedly, a South African diplomat pointed to Djibouti and told the folks at Ostinato “This is the future.” But for the sake of this post, let’s talk about 4 Mars. 4 Mars offers a bright window into Djibouti’s past, when the country was starting from scratch. Their name — Quatre Mars in French — refers to March 4, 1977, the founding date of The People’s Rally for Progress, the political party in charge of the small East African country since its independence. And interestingly enough, 4 Mars was the party’s band.

New countries are in desperate need of unity — and of unifying ideals. The country’s leaders saw music, and 4 Mars especially, as the ideal soundtrack to an independent era. Almost all music was brought under the state’s wing. But interestingly enough, it wasn’t propaganda music — not in the sense as we would understand it. Music was seen as a way of quickly building a national identity and to instill values. And acts like 4 Mars were seen as having a key role in nurturing and teaching a new nation.

4 Mars is largely unknown outside of Horn of Africa region because it was a massive 40 member entourage featuring actors, singers, dancers, musicians and percussionists. Only super wealthy leaders like Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi could invite them to tour. But in Djibouti, they played at the once-lavish national theater, developing a reputation for amazing live shows, some of which were recorded by RTD.

Slated for a February 19, 2021 release globally and a February 26, 2021 release in the States, (Djibouti Archives Vol. 1) Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura: 4 Mars was authorized by booth RTD and The Palace of the People, which founded and overseas 4 Mars. Compiled from master tapes and reels recorded at RTD Studios and from live performances at the national theater between 1977 and 1994, this collection is a seminal anthology that offers a perspective shifting journey through East Africa.

So, to build up buzz for the compilation Ostinato Records released three singles off the compilation — “Hoblaayeey Nabadu! (Hello Peace!),” “Dhulka Hooyo (Motherland)” and “Aabo Usha Noohaay (Father Hold the Stick for Us).” These three tracks are a wonderful example of 4 Mars’ sound — a sound in which disparate and eclectic sound and ideas mesh into something familiar yet completely new. The songs are a heady and mind-bending mesh of Afrobeat and Bollywood-inspired vocals, shuffling off-beat reggae licks, which some will argue came from Jamaican reggae while others will say come from Somali Dhaanto rhythm, Egyptian and Yemeni rhythms, Sudanese song structures, American jazz and funk-inspired horn lines, Turkish-inspired synth melodies, Egyptian and Yemeni rhythms and so on delivered with a feverish intensity and urgency.

While the material has an old and dusty analog sound, it’s a bright vision of a genre-less, border-less future ruled by the exchange of ideas and sounds and drive by funky groove — 40 years before anyone here dreamt of it. Djibouti past and is the world’s future, indeed.




Jean-Pierre “Jupiter” Bokondji is a Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-born and-based bandleader, songwriter and percussionist. Bokondji’s grandmother was a traditional healer, who got introduced him to music by having him attend religious ceremonies and funerals, which he later would play percussion. His father was a Congolese diplomat, who received a post at the Congolese embassy in East Berlin — and as a result, the family relocated to Germany.

While in Germany Bokondji started his first band Der Neger, an act that meshed the Mongo music of his native Congo with the European rock of his German-born bandmates. When his father’s post ended, the family returned to Kinshasa in the 1980s. Upon his family’s return, Bokondji traveled around the country listening to the music of the country’s different tribes, eventually developing and honing his own style and sound. In 1984, he formed a band called Bongofolk — and in 1990, he formed his best known and longest running band Okwess International, which currently features Staff Benda Bilili’s Montana (drums), Yendé (bass), Eric (guitar), Richard (guitar) and Blaise (vocals).

In the years immediately after their formation, the members of Jupiter & Okwess toured across Africa, playing a crowd-pleasing mix of Afropop, traditional Congolese rhythms, funk and rock paired with strong sociopolitical messages that Bokondji has dubbed “bofenia rock.” But unfortunately, as they saw increased popularity, a bloody civil war broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some of the band’s members fled to Europe as a result of the war; however, Bokondji remained in Kinshasa. And as the war died down, the Congolese songwriter, bandleader and percussionist saw a resurgence of his popularity.

Bokondji was featured in the 2006 documentary film Jupiter’s Dance. The film brought him to the attention of British producers and musicians — and it lead to him joining the Africa Express tour and to major stops across the global festival circuit, including Glastonbury Festival and Way Out West. Adding to a rapidly growing international profile, the act released their long-awaited full-length debut, 2013’s Hotel Univers.

The Kinshasa-based act’s sophomore effort, 2018’s Kin Sonic finds the members of the band further expanding their sound outside of their homeland, incorporating elements of modern, contemporary music. As a result of the album’s popularity, Bokondji and company played 180 dates across the globe, including performing in the Paris production of Abderrahmane Sissako and Damon Albarn’s opera Le Vol du Boli.

Jupiter & Okwess’s latest EP Bolingo serves as follow-up to Kin Sonic while providing listeners a taste of what to expect for their forthcoming, third full-length album, slated for an April 2021 release. In the meantime, the Mario Caldato, Jr-recorded effort finds the Congolese act meshing a unique array of sounds across the African Diaspora from traditional African music, disco, jazz, New Orleans brass, samba and even soul while still remaining committed to sociopolitically conscious lyrics and a strong sense of purpose.

The EP’s latest single, EP title track “Bolingo” is a sonic departure from the bonefia rock they’ve established, with the band playing a shuffling and breezy samba featuring shimmering acoustic guitar, shuffling rhythms, soaring call and response vocals featuring Brazilian vocalist Rogê, and a gorgeous flute solo coda. Complete with infectious hooks, the song is centered around a simple yet very powerful message — love is our purpose. Material things don’t teach you anything about life; love does. And although, the Trump Administration’s miserable term is ending in a month, we all still feel like we’re in the end days — and we need to be reminded of the hope and power of love right now.

Doubleheader is a new collaborative project between Arthur Comeau, a musician and producer, who has released material as Radio Radio, Nom de Plume and under his own name — and multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger Jean Massicotte, who has worked with Patrick Wilson, Jean Leloup, Lhasa, Arthur H, Alejandra Ribera and a lengthy list of others. Doubleheader finds the acclaimed musicians and producers blending a wild mix of ideas, genres and sounds — including beatmaking, DJinng, hip-hop, worldbeat, pop and others — as aa way of showing the world what pop music can feel and sound like in the 2020s and beyond, continuing artist’s push towards a genre-defying and genre-less world. But more Importantly, their sound and approach is specifically crafted to be a reflection of the world we should be aspiring to — a multicultural world that celebrates diversity in all of its forms.

The Montreal-based act’s 10 song, full-length debut Slim Wall finds the duo collaborating with an equally accomplished collection of Canadian vocalists including 2020 Juno Award-winning artist Dominque Fils-Aimé, 2019 AFRIMA Award-winning artist AfrotroniX, 2020 Juno Award-winner Djely Tapa, Samito, EIDHZ, Quentin Hatfield and TEKE: TEKE’s Maya Kuroki to create material that eschews genre and language constraints in an interesting yet accessible fashion.

Acclaimed Malian-Canadian artist Djely Tapa contributes achingly plaintive and evocative vocals to Slim Wall single “Djanto,’ a track which pairs shimmering acoustic guitar with skittering beats, twinkling synth arpeggios and a soaring hook in a slickly produced club banger that finds the members of Doubleheader meshing elements of reggaeton and Afro pop. But underneath the club friendly, tweeter and woofer rocking thump, the song is centered by a thoughtful and important message: taking care of nature involves protecting both animal and human life.


New Audio: Rising Senegalese Artist Mariaa Siga Releases a Breezy and Infectious New Single

Born Mariama Siga Goudiaby, the rising singer/songwriter Mariaa Siga hails from the Casamance region of Southern Senegal. In 2009,. Goudiaby won a talent show and caught the attention of Senegalese act Joan of Arc; the act’s frontperson mentored the young Goudiaby, helping her refine her style and further develop her musical skills. By the following year, the emerging Senegalese artist earned a role in Mon Réve, a film which aired on RDV.

As a musical artist, Goudiaby was long accustomed to the traditional rhythms of her native Casamance but her curiosity led her to discover and experiment with more Western styles, including the blues and jazz, which she meshes into her own work. In 2016, she was one of the winners of the Festival des Vielles Pirogues’ Tremplin competition.

Goudiaby released two singles “Ya sama none” and “Asekaw,” in 2017. And building upon a growing profile, the Senegalese artist performed in her native Casamance for the first time with a set at 2018’s Kayissen Festival. Also that year, Yoro Ndiyae featured Goudiaby on his Sunu Folk compilation before capping it off with a French tour that November.

Building upon a growing profile, Goudaiby released her full-length debut, last year’s Asekaw (which translates as “woman” in her native Diola). She also won Baco Records’ One Riddim Contest, which led to sets at Morocco’s Festival MarcoFoiles, France’s Midem Festival and to an invite to play Quebec’s Festival Mondial des Femmes d’Ici et d’Ailleurs.

The rising Senegalese artist’s latest single “Lagne Boote,” which in her native Diola translates to “back to basics” was recorded at Vagh and Weinmann Studio in Salernes, France — with the support of the African Culture Fund. Centered around shimmering and looping acoustic guitar, shuffling African polyrhythm and Goudiaby’s gorgeous vocals, “La Lagne Boote” is a breezy and infectious song that subtly hints at soca and other Caribbean sounds while gently reminding the listener to never forget their roots. “When you get lost and don’t know where you’re going, go back to your sources,” Goudiaby explains.

New Video: Ballaké Sissoko Teams Up with Oxmo Puccino on a Gorgeous and Meditative New Single

Acclaimed Malian-born, Paris-based kora player Ballaké Sissoko is the son of Djelimady Sissoko, a master kora player, best known for playing with the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali. Drawn to the instrument at a very young age, the younger Sissoko was taught by his father. Tragically, Djelmady died while his children was very young — and Ballaké stepped up to take on the role of the family breadwinner and took his father’s place in the Ensemble Instrumental Du Mali.

A long-held fascination with genres and sounds outside of the scope of the Mandinka people’s scope – – i.e., flamenco guitar and sitar — inspired a series of critically applauded collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of musicians across the globe, including a acclaimed French cellist Vincent Segal, Toumani Diabaté, legendary bluesman Taj Mahal and Ludovic Einaudi.

Slated for a February 19, 2021 release through Nø Førmat Records, Sissoko’s 11th full-length album Djourou will feature solo compositions and a number of thoughtful collaborations with diverse and unexpected artists outside of Mandinka musical genre for which his griot caste is celebrated — and the list of collaborators include Nouvelle Vague’s Camille, African legend Salif Keita, leading female kora player Sona Jobareth, the aforementioned Vincent Segal and Malian-born, French emcee Oxmo Puccino among others.

Djourou, which derives its name from the Bambara word for string, can trace its origins to when Sissoko approached Nø Førmat label head Laurent BIzot with the proposition of blending solo kora pieces with unexpected collaborations. With a mutual emphasis between the artist and the label, that they take he time to confirm enriching and challenging partnerships with artists, who were also fans of Sissoko’s work, Djourou has been a slow-burn album in the making since 2018.

Djourou’s first single is the mediative “Frotter Les Mains,” featuring acclaimed French emcee Oxmo Puccino. Deriving its name from the French term for “rub hands.” the track mirrors some of the song’s percussive elements that Sissoko created in the studio. Centered around Sissoko’s gorgeously cascading kora chords and Puccino’s dexterous flow, “Frotter Les Mains” is a much-needed bit of peace, thoughtless and kindness in a world gone absolutely batshit. Additionally, the song — in my mind, at least — serves as a vital connection between the ancient and the modern, between the West and Africa, and as a reminder that hip-hop is the lingua franca that binds us all.

Puccino was among the first artists to be recruited for the album. And interestingly, the studio sessions was a personal and professional highlight: he recalls that, he was introduced to Sissoko by Vincent Segal “as an uncle.” Puccino continues, “Life never leaves me alone: it either makes fun of me or it makes me feel so small. This time the staging was perfect. Vincent Segal helped me to take my art to the next level. This day he presented me to Ballaké, who my parents used to listen to when he was playing in Mali’s National Orchestra. I used to dream when Vincent was speaking to me about Bamako and their recording session. I have been waiting for this opportunity and to meet together. When I was invited to take part in the album, I only thought for 2 minutes before finding an obvious theme; the voice of our body, or rather its subtitle: our hands. I’m coming from a lineage of Blacksmiths and Ballaké is descended from a long line of kora players.”

Directed by Julien Borel and Vladimir Cagnolari, the recently released video for “Frotter Les Mains” features intimately and gorgeously shot footage of the duo in the studio.