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.