With the African nation of Mali in the midst of a brutal and divisive civil war in which Islamic militants have banned music in the regions of that country under their control. And as result some of Mali’s greatest artists have either fled their homeland with the hopes of continuing to freely practice their art, while others have asked Western artists to help them promote Mali’s long tradition of art and music, stretching back to the days of the Malian Empire. 

Kanaga System Krush (K.S.K.) Records have committed themselves to preserving and promoting Malian music. On February 4th, the label will be releasing Keme Borama, the first and sadly only full-length album from famed, late griot Tiecoro (pronounced ch-ee-ko-row) Sissoko.

Coming from a long line of griots, Siskoro has performed with the likes of Grammy-winning artist Toumani Diabate at Bamako’s most famous club, the Diplomat; Mangala Camara, Zani Diabate, and in several groups including Sabba and Bambara Percussion Group, as well as the group he led Super Sabaiya (which later was known Tomonkorobogou Fulani).

Before we meet Sissoko in this video, we are told by several griots about how important their tradition is – in fact, in their culture the griot is held in as high esteem as royalty, as they’re their culture’s historians and poets.  But when we do meet Sissoko about 40 seconds into the video, you’ll hear that Siskoro is an incredibly adept guitarist with songs that are hauntingly affecting – perhaps because his message and the language he’s singing them in seem older than time itself and passed on among generations upon generations.