A Malian's Musings about Music and Mali…
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“Kaira” by Toumani Diabate

Toumani Diabate

The Kora is one of West Africa’s most beautiful gifts to the world. Its 21 strings attached to a calabash make it look like a Harp, but its sound has so much more soul…so much more depth.

Toumani Diabate is the son of Mali’s original Kora “King”, Sidiki Diabate who recorded the first ever full-length Kora album in 1970. Toumani followed his father’s footsteps and took them even further with his first album “Kaira” which was recorded in London and released internationally in 1988.

The fact that the entire “Kaira” album was just recorded in one afternoon takes nothing away from its quality and in my opinion, just adds to its magic. Inspiration and improvisation are necessary ingredients when making timeless music.

I don’t love the kora just because of its sound but also because of what it symbolizes: the artist, his instrument, his skill and the spiritual presence of our ancestors passing down stories, wisdom and what it means to be who we are.

I’m immensely proud to have any sort of connection to this.

Title: Kaira
Artist: Toumani Diabate
Album: Kaira, 1988


“Ai Du” by Ali Farka Toure & Ry Cooder

Ali Farka Toure

In the spirit of properly representing my Malian roots, it’s only right that the first gem i showcase is from my favorite Malian artist: the late great Ali Farka Toure (October 31, 1939 – March 7, 2006). Widely considered the best African guitarist there was in his genre, Toure was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”….but I’m not going to make this about his career achievements…or I’d have to start talking about his two Grammy awards etc…etc…etc….etc….and we could be here for a long while.

Ai Du is the kind of music you get lost in…the right tempo, understated drums, haunting melodies, incredible guitar work and of course the harmonica as if to remind us that we are indeed listening to the blues……gorgeous…even sensual. I have yet to run into someone who has seen the movie “Unfaithful” (Richard Gere, Diane Lane, 2002) and hasn’t wondered about “that African song playing when she’s in the bathtub”.

To those arguing for of the opinion that North American Blues is a direct derivative of West African Music, ‘Ai Du’ is definitely another point in your favor.


Title: Aidu
Artists: Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder
Album: Talking Timbuktu, 1994


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