Ngoni specialist extraordinaire Bassekou Kouyaté returns with group Ngoni Ba on a sumptuous new album that is sure to be one of the listening treasures of the summer. For those not already familiar, Kouyaté’s music is a trip into the very roots of Malian music and his 2007 debut ‘Segu Blue’ was both a major discovery and revelation that was on all the right end of year playlists while its successor, ‘I speak Fula’ from 2009, was equally well received. A more recent recording, ‘Jama Ko’ (2013) was voted world roots album of the year by no less than Mojo magazine, a sure sign that Malian music was gaining an audience outside the strictly world roots crowd and this is certainly music for the masses, albeit those with a love of the rebellious. Produced by Chris Eckman and Stéphane Grimm, this might just be the album to catapult Bassekou and company to greater stardom and there are some stunning moments contained within. A lovely mid-tempo burner in ‘Abé Sumaya’ (‘It will die out’) is this writer’s favourite and the infectious riff has all the feel of Salif Keita in his prime and the call and response vocals are a sheer delight to behold. The cherry on the cake is the instrumental breakdown with a fabulous extended jam riff. In fact the album starts on a joyous uptempo groove with ‘Siran Fen’ (Beware’) that features some lovely multi-layered instrumentation and percussion and these work in total harmony. A terrific instrumental solo in the middle and the piercing, yet wonderful vocals of Amy Sacko make this a close contender for the album’s runner up song. Throughout the lead vocals are shared and this provides just the right touch of variety to proceedings, though Sacko does predominate overall and guest singer/guitarist Samba Touré lends a helping hand. The latter lays down some wah-wah guitar and other sound effects on ‘Musow Fanga’ (‘Power of Women’) with virtuoso instrumentation the order of the day.
Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba will be performing at the Wychwood Festival on 30 May and at the London Scala on 31 May before returning to the UK later in the year to perform at the Shambala Festival on 29 August.