A Malian's Musings about Music and Mali…
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“Al Vaiven de Mi Carreta” by Afrocubism

Afrocubanismo was a term coined in 1920s Cuba to describe a movement that worked to recognize and promote the Cuban historical link to Africa.  Its focus on “Black Culture” resulted in a far-reaching impact on Cuban literature, poetry, painting, and of course music.  At the heart of the movement, was an expression of the struggle for Cuba’s independence from Spain, slavery and the quest for a national identity.  90 years after its first shout, Afrocubanismo echoes on with “Al Vaiven de Mi Carreta”.

When the Cuban and Malian legends got together to record for the first time, producer Nick Gold from World Circuit Records described it best: “It was as though the musicians had been holding back their ideas and energy for that moment… The group had never played together before but the music just poured out and it continued to flow…”.

As for Cuban and African instruments sounding good together, no surprises there, I suspect they were meant to be together in the first place.

Viva Cuba…..et Vive le Mali.


Cuba: Eliades Ochoa, Osnel Odit, Virgilio Valdes, Jorge Maturell, Jose Angel Martinez, Eglis Ochoa

Mali: Toumani Diabate, Kasse Mady Diabate, Bassekou Kouyate, Lassana Diabate, Djelimady Tounkara, Baba Sissoko

Title: Al Vaiven de mi Carreta / Album: AfroCubism (2010)

Listen on Apple Music

“Sambolera” by Khadja Nin

Our Queen from Burundi.

One the smallest countries on the continent, Burundi is located in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.  Unfortunately, its relatively small size did not spare the country from experiencing the political instability and resulting violence that has plagued many African countries since the 1960s when most of them became independent.  Between 1993 and 2005, Burundi witnessed an armed conflict that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and cemented its economic position as one of the 10 poorest nations of the World.

In the face of tragedy, especially one as self-inflicted as a civil war, there must be a few who are willing to stand up and speak up.  Khadja Nin does both with “Sombolera Mayi Son” as she questions the logic and morality of her country’s civil war, or any war, anywhere for that matter.

This song is majestic not only in its content but also in its delivery.  Khadja Nin’s message is delivered in a voice exudes warmth and power.  The first time I heard this, something seemed to be telling me that I needed to listen……that I needed to understand this message.  I didn’t need to speak a word of Swahili to feel the positivity emanating from this song.

“One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one” (Agatha Christie 1890-1976)”.


Title: Sambolera / Artist: Khadja Nin / Album: Sambolera (1996)

“Sodade” by Cesaria Evora

“Sodade” in a general sense, refers to a feeling of longing or yearning.  In the context of this song, it specifically refers to “homesickness”.  Those of us who have spent most of our lives away from home will find special meaning in this song, as it reminds us of those moments when you get the urge to just leave everything behind and simply run home.

A beautiful song from a beautiful place.

Cape Verde

Title: Sodade / Artist: Cesaria Evora / Album: Miss Perfumado (1992)

Listen on Apple Music

“Paulette” by Balla et ses Balladins

“Balla est ses Balladins” was Guinea’s first major musical group of the post colonial era.  Like many of their West African contemporaries, they were sponsored by their country’s government in the 1960s as a means of promoting culture through art in a newly independent country.

The band’s leader Balla Onivogui died in March 2011 at the age of 75, before J Cole brought his music back to life a couple of months later with his summer hit “Can’t Get Enough”, which extensively samples vocals and guitar riffs from “Paulette”.

Although “Paulette” sticks to its African roots by employing almost exclusively native instruments, you can feel a distinctively Cuban influence in its cadence, vocal arrangements and guitar work.


Title: Paulette / Artist: Balla et ses Balladins / Album: Objectif Perfection, 1980

“Amour a Mort” by Les Nubians

“Si l’amour meurt, alors dit moi ce qu’il reste: des cases vides, des causes injustes, juste des gestes” 

When the love dies, tell me what’s left: only empty homes, unjust causes and meaningless gestures.


Title: Amour A Mort/ Artist: Les Nubians/ Album: One Step Forward, 2003

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