Tag: African Diaspora Music

New Video: Rising Afro Pop Artist Poundo Releases a Swaggering, Global Club Banger

Poundo Gomis is an emerging Guinea-Bissauan-French singer/songwriter, dancer, writer producer, , blogger and fashionista who currently splits her time between her hometown of Paris and New York, who performs under the mononymic moniker Poundo. Exposed to and influenced by the best of Africa and the West, Gomis immersed herself in the performing arts as a dancer and vocalist — and in fashion.

Over the past few years, Gomis has been incredibly busy. She has worked with some of the world’s top directors and choreographers — including Opéra de Paris’ Marie-Claude Pietragalia, Jérôme Savary, Georges Momboye, and Anne Fontaine. She was a featured danced in the Broadway musical Fela! — and since then, she has worked with Alicia Keys, Bill T. Jones, Spike Lee, The Roots and Cirque du Soleil, Aya Nakamura, Gims, Dadju, Vitaa, Amir, Hyphen Hyphen, Sting and a growing list of others.

As a recording artist Gomis has crafted a global, genre-defying take on pop music. Drawing from trap. pop, hip-hop and Mandingue music, the Paris-born artist’s work draws from her own personal experiences paired with political statements — while being accessible and club friendly. Slated for a November 27, 2020 release, the Guinea-Bissauan-French artist’s debut EP features a collection of touch upon her love of fantasy while bravely exploring her vulnerability.

The rising Guinea-Bissauan-French artist’s latest single “O Wassa Waru,” which means “A Beautiful Soul” in Mandjak is a slickly produced, club banger with a cinematic quality. Centered around looping twinkling kora lines. African polyrhythm, staccato handclaps, stuttering trap beats, staccato handclaps, wobbling low end and an infectious hook paired with Gomis’ self-assured delivery in English and Mandjak. Switching between swaggering rhymed versions and sultrily sung vocals, the track suggests that Gomis may have been influenced by Lauryn Hill and others — but with a brash, global bent and a righteous message. “It’s an ode for girls and women,” Gomis says. “I wrote and produced the track between New York, Paris and Conakry. I sing in English and Mandjak because I couldn’t do it a different way. 🙂 I grew up speaking Mandjak, French, Wolof and later learned English & Spanish at school. That’s why this song shows how international I am.”

Directed by LDITCH, the recently released video for “O Wassa Waru” is a gorgeous and cinematically shot visual featuring some serious black girl magic: beautiful and talented black women being badass in equally gorgeous settings,

New Video: Flem Teams Up with Vieux Farka Touré and Amy D on an Urgent and Empathetic Look at the Plight of Refugees

Earlier this year, I wrote about Flem, a rising French emcee, who has developed a reputation for his fluid flows and conscious themes. And as a result, the rising French emcee has become a go-to collaborator, working with an eclectic array of artists including Sages Poètes de la Rue’s DanyDan, Assassin‘s DJ Duke, La MC Malcriado‘s Izé Bosineau and Aethority‘s Mattias Mimoun and a growing list of others.

His latest album Nomades, which was released digitally last month and sees a physical release this month finds the rising French artist collaborating with internationally acclaimed Malian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Vieux Farka Touré. The duo can trace their friendship and this collaboration back over a decade to repeatedly crossing paths at a series of festivals in Paris and Timbuktu.

Some time ago, the pair were performing in Niafunké, Mali, a stronghold of the Touré family,. when Flem along with a small group of Westerners were quickly evacuated to Bamako, Mail, narrowly escaping an attack. This strengthened the pair’s friendship and reinforced the need for them to create a new project that was much more urgent, conscious and militant than they had done individually.

Over the better part of the past decade, Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between different warring religious and ethnic factions, undermined by unbalanced international relationships, rampant corruption and terrorism. Nomades touches upon the historical and cultural link between Europe and Africa, the ethnic conflicts that have been used and exploited by foreign countries, who have economic interests across the continent, the emigration of African youth for a better way of life anywhere they can, monetary independence, freedom, love and hope and so on.

Album single “Mali,” was a love song to the country and its people, centered around a longing for much simpler days — while being one of the best examples of the album’s overall sound and approach: Touré’s looping, shimmering and expressive guitar, gently padded percussion and Touré’s lilting voice are paired with an infectious hook and Flem’s fiery lyrics, which touch upon his love of Mali, its food and its people, while praying for an end to war, racism, colonial oppression and more.

Centered around a looping and shimmering guitar line, brief blasts of soaring organ, Toure’s lilting vocals and Amy D.’s ethereal vocals singing lyrics in their regional dialects paired with Flem’s rhyming in a dexterous and tongue twisting French, Nomades’ latests single, album title track “Nomades” is a loving and empathetic look at those brave and desperate souls, who are forced to pick up their belongings and their lives are cross international borders however they can. Yes, the song is a call for all of us to be more empathetic to the plight of others, especially refugees — but it’s also an equally urgent call for peace across Mali and elsewhere.

Directed by Mike Jan, the recently released, cinematically shot video for “Nomades” follows a teenaged boy as he makes his way across Mail — first by boat and then by a mule. As we follow this boy, we get an intimate view of daily life in the country: yes, many are poor but they have their dignity, their small joys and pleasures. And from what we can tell through the boy’s journey and his various transactions, the people he encounters are kind and helpful.

New Audio: Acclaimed Rwandan Act The Good Ones Release a Nostalgic Ode to Soccer and Innocence

Acclaimed Kigali, Rwanda-based folk act The Good Ones — co-lead singer Janvier Hauvgimana, co-lead singer and primary songwriter Adrien Kazigira and Javan Mahoro — can trace their origins back to roughly 1978 when the founding members of the band were children. Hauvgimana’s older brother taught them music — and they’ve been writing and playing together ever since. Starting off a long list of heartbreaking tragedies and unthinkable horrors, Hauvgimana’s older, who was also blind, later died in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The members of The Good Ones formed the band as part of the healing process after the genocide and interestingly enough, the band’s original trio featured individual members of each of Rwanda’s three tribes — Tutsi, Hutu and Abatwa — symbolically and metaphorically reuniting a country that had been split apart at its seams. But on a personal level, for each of the band’s founding members, the band was an active attempt to seek out “the good ones” after witnessing and enduring unthinkable horrors.

Most of the members of the band are small plot, subsistence farmers — with two of the band’s members living on family plots that have been passed down through several generations. Because most Rwandans are very poor, instruments are very rare. And yet, they find creative ways to play and create music: Sometimes they may find and use a broken guitar. But in most cases, they’ll make their own instruments, sometimes incorporating their farm tools.

Last year, the Rwandan folk act released their critically applauded album Rwanda, You Should Be Loved through Anti- Records. The album was written and recorded during periods of profound loss and heartbreak for their producer: Adrien Kazigira’s 13 year-old Marie Claire had a life-threatening tumor that afflicted her left eye. Producer Ian Brennan’s mother and a former bandmember and founding member had both died during the sessions. The album was recorded in a very simple fashion without overdubs at Kazigira’s family farm — and thematically, the album focused on their experiences and lives. Although, written and sung in their native tongue, their work has drawn comparisons to bluegrass, country, Americana and acoustic Mississippi Delta Blues as it talks about the plight of their fellow farmers, their countrymen and off working men everywhere struggling to get by as best as they can.

“Soccer (Summer 1988)” is the first bit of new material from the act since last year’s Rwanda, You Are Loved. Much like all of their work, the song was recorded at Kazigira’s family farm — without overdubs. Centered around a deceptively simple yet mesmerizing arrangement of plucked acoustic guitar and a milk jug filled with milk from Kazigira’s prized cow for percussion, the band’s founding duo effortlessly interweave intricate and achingly earnest harmonies. Fittingly, the song is an end-of-summer song — a tale of of nostalgia for Rwanda’s beloved soccer club Rayon Sports F.C. in the more innocent days before the 1994 genocide, which later claimed some of the club’s players and countless fans. And as a result, the song is an acknowledgment of time passing, the prerequisite losses of time and a longing for when things were as simple as going to a soccer game and rooting for your beloved club with friends, family, coworkers and others. Other than memories, you can never get that back. But we push on as we always do.

New Video: Crammed Discs to Re-issue Zazou Bikaye’s Forward-Thinking Electro Take on Afrobeat/Afrofunk Originally Released in the 80s

Tracing their origins back to an encounter between Congolese vocalist and composer Bony Bikaye, French musician and producer Hector Zazou and modular synth act CY1, Zazou Bikaye released a groundbreaking Afro pop/experimental electronic album with their 1983 full-length debut Noir et Blanc, an album that has since garnered cultish devotion by music cognoscenti, musicians and fans.

After the release of Noir et Blanc, Zazou Bikaye turned into a proper band that started to develop and hone their own special brand of digital Afrobeat/Afrofunk. Zazou took on writing and programming duties while Bikaye expanded on the extroverted side of his vocal stylings. They then set out to record a large batch of material with five tracks eventually being released in 1985 as the 32-minute mini album Mr. Manager, an effort released to acclaim through Crammed Discs in Europe and through Pow Wow in Japan and the States. The act toured Europe and played a couple of shows in New York — and two of the album’s tracks “Angel” and “Nostalgie” became underground club hits across the States and Europe.

With a backing band that featured Philipe “Pinpin” de la Croix Herpin (woodwinds), Tuxedomoon’s Luc van Lieshout (trumpet and harmonica), Vincent Kenis (guitar), Chris Jouris (percussion), Bigoune (percussion), Mwamba Kasuba (backing vocals), Nicole MT (backing vocals) M’Bombo K (backing vocals) and Marc Hollander (sax), the Hollander, Zazou Kenis produced sessions recorded between 1985 and 1986 were supposed to be appear on a full-length album. But as it turned out, the members of Zazou Bikaye moved on and recorded an entirely different album of material, 1988’s Guilty. Some of the tracks from those 1985-1986 sessions came out as remixes but most of the material was left aside, unfinished.

Slated for an October 16, 2020 release through Crammed Discs, the expanded and remastered reissue of Mr. Manager features the mini-album’s original five tracks plus nine rediscovered tracks recorded during those abandoned 1985-1986 sessions. And to celebrate the occasion, Zazou Bikaye and Crammed Disc re-released album single “Nostalgie. Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated blocks of synths, thumping polyrhythm, call-and-response vocals, an ebullient, Branford Marsalis-like sax solo and an enormous, crowd pleasing hook, “Nostalgie” may strike some listeners as a sleek and mischievous synthesis of 80s Peter Gabriel synth pop, Man Machine-era Kraftwerk and Fela Kuti. But interestingly enough, it actually presages the wildly experimental dance pop coming out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — i.e. Kokoko! and Tshegue among a growing list of others.

Mr. Manager also featured a colorful album cover art and the recently released video for “Nostalgie” features animation by Sylvia Baldan that draws from the album’s artwork, which she originally designed.

New Audio: Afel Bocoum and Tony Allen Team Up on a Gorgeous New Single

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who have mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all over the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Despite the accolades he has earned throughout his lengthy career, music hasn’t been an easy dream for him: Most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century.

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymns of the local Protestant Mission. For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest sons. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band. And as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source.

The idea of releasing his own music arose from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.

As a result of Alkibar‘s success, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s latest album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé was officially released today through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe, through collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalitescollaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin.

Throughout the album’s material, you’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion, horns and call-and-response vocals, and the end result is something timeless and mystical, yet modern. At its core, the material possesses a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material urges the listener to have hope and to seek solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

So far I’ve written about two of Lindé’s previously released, the breezy, uplifting and mischievous “Avion,” which featured the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano paired with call-and-response vocals and propulsive polyrhythm and the Pan African of “Bombolo Lindo,” which featured Skatalites’ Vin Gordon (trumpet), Songhoy Blues‘ Garba Touré (guitar) and Toumani Diabaté’s brother Madou Diabaté (kora) on a track that warned young Africans against thinking that heading to Europe would mean instant success or recognition for them and their talents.

The album’s third and latest single “Djougal” begins with a slow-burning and contemplative intro before a sudden tempo change about 80 seconds in with the song taking on a decided shuffling Afro pop feel. And it’s all centered around shimmering and dexterous guitar work, call-and-response vocals and the late Tony Allen holding the song together with a deft rhythmic touch.. Much like the previously released singles, “Djougal” is a seamless synthesis of the timeless with the modern — and it’s done in a way that’s slick yet thoughtful, mischievous yet earnest, modern yet timeless.

New Audio: Celebrated Malian Afel Bocoum Releases a Breezy Genre-Defying Single

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who have mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all overthe world during the 20th and 21st centuries. But interestingly enough, despite the accolades that surround him, music hasn’t been an easy dream for the celebrated Niafunké-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist: Most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century.

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymn of the local Protestant Mission.  For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest sons. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band. And as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source. 

Interestingly, the idea of releasing his own music arose  from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of  World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.

As a result of Alkibar’s success, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s forthcoming album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé is slated for a September 4, 2020 release through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe,  through collaborations with a diverse and eclectic array of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalites collaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin.

Throughout the album’s material, you’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion, horns and call-and-response vocals, and the end result is something timeless and mystical, yet modern.  At its core, the material possesses a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material urges the listener to have hope and to seek solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about Lindé‘s first single, the breezy and uplifting “Avion.”  Centered around the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano, call-and-response vocals, propulsive polyrhythm that is playful and optimistic ode to air travel, complete with the prerequisite safety announcement  — in French, of course —  that quickly takes off and soars upward. But it’s also a gentle yet urgent call for all people to band together around the most human of all things — music, love and dancing; that music can take us to the promised land of peace and equality among all.

Lindé’s  latest single “Bombolo Lindo” features Skatalites’ Vin Gordon (trumpet), Songhoy Blues’ Garba Touré (guitar) and Toumani Diabaté’s brother Madou Diabaté (kora) on a song that broadly draws from across the Pan Africa Diaspora: you’ll hear shuffling and uptempo reggae riddims, shimmering guitar and kora, an infectious and soaring hook and some sweeping trombone lines. And while seemingly possesses irie vibes, the songs’ lyrics attempt to realistically temper the dreams of African youths desperately attempting to escape to Europe — with the hopes that it’ll be some promised land of money and opportunity.  “The small percentage of people who manage to make it to Europe shouldn’t cry ‘victory!’ because there are still many problems left for them to overcome, including finding a place to live, a job to do and food to eat,” Bocoum explains. “They mustn’t forget that, from the moment they arrive, they’re subject to the laws of the receiving country. And then they have to learn how to communicate and deal with the climate. Add it all up and you’ll see that overall, there’s more loss than benefit, and finding that anticipated happiness is just a lottery. More often than not, you’re talking about a 1 in 100 chance of success.”

New Video: French Genre-Defying Act Jahlover Releases a Summery Club Banger

Jahlover is a unique and emerging French that boldly and defiant defies genre and sonic boundaries — and although they’re primarily a reggae act, their sound features elements of several different genres and styles including zouk, salsa, hip-hop, Afrobeat, rumba, rock and pop. Interestingly, as a result of their globe-spanning sound, the act’s lyrics are written and sung in several different languages. While being commercially accessible, the act’s overall objective is to use their music for just and righteous causes — to promote justice and equality for all, preserving and protecting Mother Earth and of course, to be anti-racist. So overall their goal is to spread positive messages of love, peace, understanding and kindness to all. 

The French act’s latest single “Do You Feel (Ressens Tu) is a breezy and summery banger centered around a sinuous bass line, twinkling percussion, stuttering beats and sultry vocals singing lyrics in English and French, plus an old-school spoken word section delivered in a baritone reminiscent of Boyz 2 Men — and as a result, the song manages to further cement their globalist, Pan African sound while being remarkably upbeat. 

New Video: Madagascar’s LohArano Releases a Boldly African Take on Metal

Formed over five years ago, LohArano is an emerging Antananarivo, Madagascar-based trio featuring Mahalia Ravoajanahary (vocals, guitar), Michael Raveloson (bass, vocals) and Natiana Randrianasoloson (drums, vocals)  that specializes in a unique sound that meshes popular and beloved Malagasy music styles — in particular, Tsapiky  and Salegy — with metal.  The Madagascar-based trio’s sound and approach represents a a bold, new generation of young people, who respect the traditions of their elders but while roaring with the urgency of our moment. 

The Madagascar-based trio’s official debut single “Andrambavitany” is centered around a shimmering and looping guitar lines, an enormous power-chord riff-driven, mosh pit friendly hook, thunderous drumming paired with a brash and forceful delivery to create a unique sound: a boldly African take on metal — or a boldly metal take African music that roars, kicks ass and forcefully taking names, but while being defiantly pro-Black and pro-women. “Andrambavitany,” as the trio explains plays on the Malagasy word for “fallen nature of the Malagasy women.”

VThe recently released video is split between footage of young women stripping and the band kicking ass  — with the video expressing a misunderstanding the need for these young women to strip and show off to others on social media. The video points out that a very modern phenomenon among young people everywhere — that everyone is desperate to show off and be an influencer or be popular. 

New Video: Celebrated Malian Musician Afel Bocoum Releases a Gorgeous Glimpse into Malian Life in Visual for “Avion”

Afel Bocoum, a celebrated Niafunké, Mali-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist is among the last of a breakthrough generation of African artists, who mixed their traditional music with the new sounds that arrived from all over the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Interestingly, music hasn’t been an easy dream for the celebrated Niafunké-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist: While most aspiring musicians face stiff parental and societal opposition; however for Bocoum, the parental opposition he faced was deeply perplexing, given the fact that this father Abakina Ousmane Bocoum, a.k.a. Kodda was one of the most famous and beloved njarka players of the 20th century. 

But Bocoum wasn’t deterred. Music was omnipresent: it was in the holey or spirit dances of Songhoy, in the melodies of the Fulani flue, in the gumbé drum sessions with their wild moonlit dancing, in the stories and poetry of the griots and in the hymn of the local Protestant Mission.  For a young Bocoum, music was more than just entertainment; it taught people about life and the right way to live it. It guaranteed social cohesion and the strength of the collective conscience, especially in a society that was at the time, largely illiterate and had no access to modern media. “There was no radio at the time, no TV, nothing. It was incredible,” Bocoum remembers. “When you saw someone with a guitar, you followed him everywhere.”

As a teenager, the legendary Ali Farka Touré exerted a powerful hold on the young Bocoum. When Bocoum first met Touré in the late 1960s, he was a barely a teenager and Touré was already considered one of the region’s most famous and greatest son. Bocoum hung out with Touré as much  as he could, eventually becoming a member of Asco, Touré’s backing band — and as a member of of Asco, Bocoum toured with the legendary singer/songwriter and guitarist throughout the 80s and 90s, appearing on Touré’s 1992 effort, The Source. 

The idea of releasing his own music arose  from a gentle curiosity, rather than any self-serving ambition or desire to upstage his beloved mentor. “Everybody seemed to be releasing albums all around me, so it was like, ‘why not?’” Bocoum says in press notes. Tourè hooked his mentee up with Nick Gold, artistic director of  World Circuit, which led to Bocoum’s 1999 full-length debut, Alkibar (The Messengers), an effort that established Bocoum as an international star in his own right.  

Interestingly, as a result of Alkibar, Bocoum was invited to work with Blur and Gorillaz frontman and creative mastermind Damon Albarn and Toumani Diabaté on the 2002 album Mali Music. From there, he became a regular contributor on the Africa Express compilation series, collaborating with a who’s who list of internationally acclaimed artists, including Béla Fleck, Habib Koité, Tarit Ensemble, Oliver Mutukudzi and others. “You have to collaborate, otherwise you’ll get nowhere in today’s world,” Bocoum says of his work with those artists. “All those collaborations were positive.”

Bocoum’s forthcoming album, the Damon Albarn and Nick Gold produced-Lindé is slated for a September 4, 2020 release through World Circuit Records. Deriving its name from a wild expanse near his hometown, the album which was recorded in Mail’s capital city of Bamako, reportedly finds the celebrated Malian singer/songwriter and guitarist drawing from the timeless sounds of the Niger River bend with a variety of styles across the globe, as he collaborates with a diverse and eclectic array  of artists including eminent Malian artists like Madou Kouyaté, the late Hama Sankaré and Madou Sidiki, along with the recently departed, legendary Afrobeat pioneer and Fela Kuti collaborator Tony Allen, Bob Marley and Skatalites collaborator Vin Gordon (trombone) and Joan as Police Woman creative mastermind Joan Wasser on violin. 

You’ll hear traditional African folk instruments like ngoni, njurkele, kora and calabash with guitars, percussion and call-and-response vocals with the end result being something both timeless and mystical yet modern. But at its core, there’s a deep and abiding message: in the face of an uncertain and turbulent world and a homeland struggling with jihad, poverty and tribal warfare, the album’s material  urges the listener to hope, solidarity and unity. “We have to meet each other, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and tell the truth,” Bocoum says. “If we’re not united, I can see no solution. Our social security is music. That’s all we’ve got left. People love music, so we have to make use of that fact.”

“Avion,” Lindé’s first single is a uplifting and breezy track, centered around the shimmering guitar work of Mamadou Kelly, Oumar Konaté and Lamine Soumano, call-and-response vocals, propulsive polyrhythm that is playful and optimistic ode to air travel, complete with the prerequisite safety announcement  — in French, of course —  that quickly takes off and soars upward. But it’s also a gentle yet urgent call for all people to band together around the most human of all things — music, love and dancing; that music can take us to the promised land of peace and equality among all. Considering recent world events, we  need more uplifting calls for unity and love. 

The recently released video gives the video a gorgeous glimpse of daily life in Mali, as we see fisherman, goat herders, the nomadic and proud Taureg people riding horses and  camels, massive metropolitan areas and the like. It reveals a world that’s more diverse and interesting that what most Westerners would know or acknowledge with a gentle  and kind viewpoint.