With its clear air and warm nights, Mali has always had a rich musical heritage. This heritage comes, in part, from the cultural melding that occurred during the Mandingue Empire where entertainers of the day, the griot, would bring musical styles from across West Africa to be played for the king. More recently, Mali has seen a string of musicians gain success on the international stage. The father of the popular “desert blues” style, Ali Farka Toure, died in 2006 but his success paved the way for many artists including Salif Keita, Mangala, Bassekou Kouyate and Amadou & Mariam. If you are looking to expand your musical horizons, any of these artists are worth a listen.
To get you started, Chicago Public Radio’s Sound Opinions recently reviewed the March 24th release by Amadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali. You can listen to the show’s entire podcast, or simply fast forward to the review of Welcome to Mali starting at the 45:58 mark. The show’s music review segment features a Siskel & Ebert format where two reviewers compare notes. They give this release a double thumbs up – way up. To explore further, this release is currently featured as an online exclusive at the Rhapsody.com music service where you can play up to 25 free tracks per month. Also, they’ll be touring the U.S. on their own this spring and then with Coldplay this summer.