8 Reasons Why the Festival of Mali Will Be The Best Music You See This Spring

Posted on Wednesday April 4th in

For 3 nights this April, 4 musicians from 1 of Africa’s most musically rich countries are coming to Brooklyn Bowl to present their revered art to the world. An ongoing crisis that broke out in 2012 in Northern Mali has made life very difficult – especially for artists. The violence and rebel-imposed ban of all non-religious music and secular art has forced many Malian artists to flee the country. Sidi Touré, performing on Saturday April 14, comments on the crisis in interview with NPR from 2013, “I have to say, all of the things that happened in Mali in the last year were very painful,” he says, through a translator. “They weren’t fun to watch, and they weren’t fun to experience. But since I’m an artist, and all of us artists — we have a duty to move forward, and to keep going, and to continue to make music.”

These Malian artists have overcome many obstacles and have let absolutely nothing stop them from sharing their voice and music with the world. Their activism and struggle for freedom is apparent in their music and the list below will easily convince you to witness them standing up for everything they believe in at World Music Institute Presents: Festival of Mali featuring Sidi Touré on Saturday, April 14, Trio De Kali and Derek Gripper on Sunday, April 15, and Fatoumata Diawara on Monday, April 16 live at Brooklyn Bowl New York!

1. Sidi Touré always stays true to his specific sound

Touré puts a great deal of effort into sticking to his roots when it comes to his music. On previous albums he chose to record in a tin-roofed studio in Bamako in order to incorporate a natural sound and style to the music. The recording sessions had to be timed around Mali’s rainy season in order to avoid the noise created by the rain pelting on the roof. Moreover, Touré’s latest album “Toubalbero” was recorded live, in an effort to capture the natural energy of his performance. Both dynamic and danceable, the album brims with an optimism and joy that has people of Mali momentarily forgetting the country’s political challenges and conflicts.

2. Sidi Touré’s KEXP session was named one of NPR’s “favorite sessions”

Touré has been praised for beautifully meshing the western guitar with African vocals in a KEXP live session. The session was named one of  NPR’s favorites and when discussing Touré’s “magic music” they add: “it was clear that this just wasn’t beautiful music; this was a man channeling the spiritual source of his art and his presence in Gao. It was hard not to be swept away by the beauty.” We couldn’t agree more.

3. Trio De Kali’s Ladilikan album made NPR’s “50 best albums of 2017”

Ladilikan an album that brings together Kronos Quartet and three master Malian musicians was recognized as one of the top albums of last year. The luminous album earned Trio De Kali and Kronos Quartet honorable praise by NPR critic, Anastasia Tsioulcas: “But along with possessing inherent beauty, Ladilikan holds another meaning as well. At a time when Malian musical traditions cultivated over many centuries — and today’s actual musicians themselves — continue to face existential threat by fundamentalist Islamists, this album stands as a proclamation of music’s power.”

4. Trio De Kali’s vocalist, Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté has been compared to the great Mahalia Jackson

Hawa Kasse Diabeté is the daughter of a widely recognized and legendary griot singer Kassé Mady Diabaté. Hawa’s rich, expressive, and natural vocals have brought comparisons with America’s great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson. When reflecting on the album NPR critics wrote, “This mesmerizing album includes two songs adapted from Mahalia Jackson, who shares with Hawa a robust contralto voice. Think of it: a Muslim African praise singer channeling a late American gospel diva!” Her deeply rooted musical background and intrepid vibrato make her a worthwhile performer you’d be lucky to bare witness to.

5. Derek Gripper classical transcriptions of Malian music is truly magnificent

Known for his curiosity and great exploration into various types of music throughout his life, Derek Gripper worked on a new and inventive project in 2012 that created African repertoire for the classical guitar. Gripper has mastered transposing sounds from a 21-string kora onto a 6-string guitar, something that great guitarists like Toumani Diabeté and John Williams never thought was possible. NPR quotes guitarist and composer John Williams referring to Derek Gripper as “absolutely amazing” and that his ability to play so many notes at once, that it often sounds like two guitars, is something we can all learn from.  Gripper executes his masterful guitar playing with ease in this NPR Tiny Desk. If his playing here is any inclination of his performance at Brooklyn Bowl, we’re all in for a real treat.

6. Fatoumata Diawara’s voice is often compared to the legendary contemporary soul-singer Sade

Known and praised over the years for her “Sade-like” voice by critics including NPR and Pitchfork, Fatoumata Diawara will close out the Festival of Mali on an absolute high note. Her inventive musicianship is apparent in all her songs, especially in her breakthrough single “Bokonoba” which overflows with West African character and earned her a spot on NPR’s top 100 songs of 2012.

7. Fatoumata Diawara has shared vocals on grammy-winning Herbie Hancock album “The Imagine Project” amongst other artists: Jeff Beck, Dave Matthews, John Legend and Derek Trucks

In 2010, Fatoumata Diawara achieved another level of success when she shared her rich vocals in Jazz Maestro, Herbie Hancock’s album “The Imagine Project.” This diverse album project featured great musicians from all over the world, including Jeff Beck, Tinariwen, Dave Matthews, John Legend, Derek Trucks, Seal, India.Arie and many more.

8. Even with all her success, Fatoumata never fails to shed light on the crisis in Mali

Although Fatoumata no longer lives in Mali, the rockstar never forgets where she came from. In fact, she is widely known for her persistent activism, which is apparent in all her projects and music. Her latest music video “Nterini” allows Diawara’s activism and creative genius to thrive. The video is a powerful and subtle reminder of the global migrant crisis. Literal translation of the lyrics state “In a world of seven billion people, one billion are migrants,” which then goes on to depict the journey and struggles of a man who has left his country in pursuit of a better life. Diawara always uses her platform as an artist to fight for what she believes in, specifically in this video in which she gathers a supergroup of Malian artists to sing for peace in Mali.

These are just some of the reasons that Festival of Mali will blow your mind this Spring. Don’t miss the intrepid and cultural musical adventure with World Music Institute Presents: Festival of Mali live at Brooklyn Bowl New York on April 14, 15, and 16.


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