Various ‘Mali All Stars. Bogolan music’ 2CD + DVD (Wrasse/Universal) 4/5

mali-all-starsThis tastefully packaged set is really an overview of Malian music recorded at the famous Bogolan studios in Bamako between 2002 and 2011 and works extremely well in this respect. Among the top names are Ali Farka Touré who is featured no three numbers including a terrific duet with kora maestro Toumani Diabaté on ‘Kaira’ from 2005 and as leader in his own right on ‘Erdi’. Instrumental group Mandékalou are well worth investigating on the relaxing and reinvigorating ‘Mali Sadio’ which at eleven minutes is one of the album’s longest pieces and is taken from the terrific 2009 CD ‘The art and soul of Mandé Griots’ which makes for compulsory listening. Singers of course predominate in Malian music and here some of the finest of the current scene are showcased, not least Oumou Sangaré who is a towering figure in every sense of the word and offers the deliciously funky ‘Seya’ complete with female chorus. Belonging to a younger generation and with a more crossover rock feel Rokia Traoré has both a Malian and Western heritage, born to Malian parents of whom her father is a diplomat. From the excellent ‘Bowboï’ CD she offers the irresistible ‘Nienafing’. One interesting discovery is that of Idrissa Soumaoro who is actually a veteran of the Malian music scene and was a member of the legendary Les Ambassadeurs du Motel (review of this band forthcoming). Here along with Alio Farka Touré he offers the soothing ‘Bèrèbèrè’ from 2010. Collaborations between western pop and jazz musicians on the one hand and Malians on the other have resulted in some interesting, if contrasting in degrees of competence, and here we have featured Damon Albarn on hand with the intriguing ‘Sunset coming on’ while far less successful is Björk ‘s ‘Hope’ that one could never doubt the sincerity of her efforts. Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater is probably most in tune with Malian music, and unsurprising given her own longer Malian roots, on ‘Bad Spirits’ where she is accompanied by the terrific Kassé Mady Diabaté. As a leader Diabaté resurfaces on the 2008 recording ‘Sinanon Saran’. An accompanying DVD sheds useful light on the recording process of some of the musicians in the Bogolan studio, although readers should be warned that it is in French only with no subtitles. First class inner sleeve notes convey all the information required on the individual songs and musicians plus some classic album covers from the classic era of Malian music in the 1970s. Informative historical notes come courtesy of French journalist and musicologist Florent Mazzolini.

Tim Stenhouse