Crocodile Blues

Samba Touré is the Malian guitarist, vocalist and composer whose distinctive style is widely regarded both at home and abroad as both reflecting and enhancing the enduring legacy of the legendary Ali Farka Touré. So it was that, in 2010, Toumani Diabaté turned to Samba to play alongside him on his ‘Ali Farka Touré Variations Tour’. It seemed a natural choice to pass the baton to Samba and have him represent Ali Farka Touré’s guitar style on the tour.

Recorded on visits back to Mali, Crocodile Blues is Samba Touré’s second international release and a giant leap forward for the Malian bluesman. His carefully crafted compositions demonstrate his own style, through his use of a variety of colours, languages, rhythms and feelings. Many of the songs represent different ethnicities and regions, as Samba sings for peace and unity in Mali.

Recording Crocodile Blues in Bamako was a real pleasure. The studio sessions took place during Ramadan and were scheduled for the evening time to aid the flow of the music. The relaxed surroundings and close relationships of all those involved in the recording is reflected in the final result. When they weren’t in the studio, the musicians would spend time in manager Philippe’s home, listening to the work in progress. They would all give their input on new ideas, new arrangements, new approaches, ready for the next studio session. It involved a lot of talking, a lot of tea and coffee and a lot of laughter.

Longtime friend and bandmate Baba Simaga played in Samba’s earlier band, Farafina Lolo, and on this project lends his hand to recording, production and playing bass. For Samba, working with Baba is like working with family. Also part of the recording was Oumar Touré, the longtime congas player for Ali Farka Touré. Bouri Séré grew up playing modern drums, but left the instrument in order to concentrate on the calabash for a more authentic sonraï sound, while the youngest member of the band, Djimé Sissoko, plays ngoni and tamani (talking drum) and, despite his age, is one of the greatest tamani players in Bamako.

With these musicians, Samba has created an album of relaxed beauty and plenty of heart. He remains a man of great friendship and fidelity. He sings songs of tribute to close friends, as well as songs of love to his wife and dedications to children and their mothers. Samba celebrates the role of women in the lives of their families and also the life of a nation. Many great women have been pivotal in the development of Mali, and Samba pays tribute to them on the track ‘Moussoya’, accompanied by Oumou Sangaré as a special guest vocalist.

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Song Information

01       Alabina
‘Alabina’ loosely translates as surprise. The song tells the story of friends and enemies acting unexpectedly and intones a warning; no one really knows each other. One day your closest friend may betray you.  On the next day, your deepest enemy may offer you a kind hand.

02       Dani Dou
‘Dani Dou’ is sung with deep faith and respect for God. Samba tells of an all powerful God whose will determines everyone’s fate.  He advises believers to accept their lot in life with thanks and grace.

03       Yermakoye
‘Yermakoye’ warns those who travel abroad in search of great adventures. Samba advises wanderers to return to their home country and remember to look after their family and friends.

04       Khadagole
This song is about members of the Soninke people who move abroad. ‘Khadagole’ encourages brave travellers who often selflessly sacrifice their own lives in order to provide for their loved ones back home.

05       Moussoya feat. Oumou Sangaré           
The lyrics of this song thank all the great women who since independence in 1960, have worked tirelessly to develop modern Mali. Samba recounts how both a man and a country are nothing without women. ‘Moussoya’ features the famous wassoulou singer, Oumou Sangaré. Oumou is renowned for tackling issues of women’s rights in her music. She is also a business woman and, among other ventures, owns her own hotel in Mali.

06       Bolel
‘Bolel’ is a thank you to Samba’s band mates, manager and close friends for all their love and support.

07       White Crocodile Blues (A song for M) (Instrumental)
‘White Crocodile Blues’ was written for a French friend of Samba’s called Matthieu. Samba invites Matthieu to visit the river Niger in the north of Mali with its colourful rhythms, contrasting landscapes and diverse ethnicities. 

08       Pullo
This song pays tribute to the Peul people all over Africa and throughout the world. The Peul people are renowned for their rich culture and tradition.

09       Aï Biné Bakoye
‘Aï Biné Bakoye’ is a song for a lost lover. Samba tells of his travels around the world playing his guitar. He remembers strumming and singing out loud, ‘Where is my baby?’ But nobody knows...

10       Diarabi
‘Diarabi’ warns that love is not a game. It is an important institution that you must work at and cannot neglect. Samba dedicates this song to his wife.

11       Takamba
Takamba is a dance rhythm from the northern Malian region of Gao. It is traditionally danced to by the nobility.

12       Bereï
‘Bereï’ is a tribute to Diadié Sankaré and his family. Diadié Sankaré is a patron to Samba and many other artists from the north of Mali.

13       Idjé Tchina (Children Of The World)
This song pays tribute to mothers. He recalls how his daughter, Inneh, used to cry as a baby. Not knowing why, her mother would try to comfort the small child and feel sadness at her helplessness.

14       Jingarr Hinné
‘Jingarr Hiné’ discusses the northern Malian regions of Timbuctu, Gao and Kidal. Samba prays that his native region will see much needed investment and development in the near future. He hopes that such positive change will bring peace and unity to the area.