Tuesday, April 7, 2015

BKO Quintet, Bamako Today, New Music from Mali

One of the most encouraging trends in African music today is the return to roots music with close-miking and electrification making those sounds resonate with the blues and rock. A very good example right now is a group from Mali, the BKO Quintet. Their first full album, Bamako Today (Buda Musique), places the emphasis on hypnotic grooves and excellent call-and-response singing.

The instrumental forces consist of an amplified kora-like harp, an amplified traditional bass stringed instrument, and several hand drums. This is music with all the spirit and soul of West African tradition, yet an unrelenting drive that is aided by the electricity the band generates.

You can hear the affiliation of such music with the African diaspora, as anyone who knows the traditions has appreciated. Perhaps never more so than now are the traditions truly a part of world music consciousness. The excellent instrumental and vocal resources of BKO Quintet brings those qualities to the forefront. The harp player is especially good!

This is a fabulous album that all those who appreciate excellent stringed instrument interplay will likely be enthralled by. Guitarists and bassists can learn much from this music. But in the end it is the totality of sound put forward by the full ensemble of strings, drums and vocals that gets you going.


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