Desert Blues

During his lifetime Ali Farka Touré won two Grammy awards and became one of Mali’s most celebrated musicians. A singer and guitarist who put Mali’s desert blues on the map he once said of the blues: ‘We’ve been playing this music for hundreds of years. The guys in Mississippi are playing “American-Malian music”, not the other way around.’ Amadou and Mariam have been performing together for three decades and have supported global superstars such as Blur and Coldplay, as well as writing the theme song for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. ‘Beaux Dimanches’ is from the hugely popular album Dimanche A Bamako that they produced with Latin music star Manu Chao, and it is afro-pop blues at its best.

Formed more than thirty years ago in the Tuareg refugee camps in Algeria, Tinariwen have since become one of the most successful African bands around. Their songs such as ‘Tenhert’ deal with common Tuareg themes such as homesickness, exile and political freedom. Terakaft, a group founded by two members of the legendary ensemble Tinariwen, are also featured on this album. From Niger, Etran Finatawa combine the rich, nomadic cultures of the Tuareg and Wodaabe people. Blending traditional instruments with electric guitars, ‘Aitimani’, a song about families gathering together at sunset to talk and sing, transports you straight to the sands of the Sahara.

Master of the ngoni (a traditional West African lute), Bassekou Kouyate won several prestigious BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards in 2008 and his latest release, I Speak Fula, from which ‘Bambugu Blues’ originates, has earned rave reviews around the world. Guitarist Samba Touré sang and played in Ali Farka Touré’s band during the 1990s and on ‘Kaïri Kaïri’, a song warning men of the tricks of the female species, he plays tribute to the magnificent Niger River blues that were inspired by his mentor.

This album also features Mamane Barka, perhaps the world’s only master of the biram (a traditional five-stringed lute of the Boudouma tribe in Eastern Niger), the political tones of Mariem Hassan, the Mauritanian griot Malouma and the Tuareg ensembles Tartit and Tamikrest among others.