A Malian's Musings about Music and Mali…

“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

“Corcovado” by Joao Gilberto / Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto

Putting the magic of the music itself aside, Corcovado is a classic by default when you read the production credits.  The song boasts no less than four pioneers of the genre on the same record: Astrud Gilberto on the vocals, Stan Getz on the saxophone, Jobim on the piano and Joao Gilberto on the guitar and vocals.   This was originally recorded and released in 1964 on probably the greatest bossa nova album ever: “Getz/Gilberto”.

The lyrics are in both Portuguese and English with Astrud providing an English intro to the song, and Joao continuing in Portuguese from then on.  You can sense a slight hesitation in the way Astrud sings in English, but the beauty of her voice overshadows any imperfections in her pronunciation:

Quiet nights of quiet stars,

Quiet chords from my guitar,

Floating on the silence that surrounds us,

Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams,

Quiet walks by quiet streams,

And a window that looks out on Corcovado,

Oh! How I lovely……..

Stan Getz’ melodies on the saxophone evoke a bittersweet longing experienced by someone who is reminiscing about good times spent in his favorite place on earth.  In this case, he is referring to the mountain that towers over Rio de Janeiro: “Corcovado”.

This is one of those songs that stands out in so many ways, that you love it more with every listen.  

Take your time with it…

Title: Corcovado/ Artist: Stan Getz/J. Gilberto/A. Gilberto/ Album: Getz/Gilberto (1964)

“At Last” by Etta James

1961 was a great year. Etta’s magic was first brought to my attention during my college years as a good friend of mine was rehearsing to sing a live cover of “At Last”.

That voice…

Title: At Last / Artist: Etta James / Album: At Last (1961)

“Dreamy Smiles” by The Dining Rooms

There is an infinite number of formulas used to create music.  Truly great musicians have a knack for coming up with new formulas rather than staying in the tried and tested creative lanes.  It is in this spirit of experimentation and innovation that bands like “The Dining Rooms” shine the brightest.

Jazzy, sensual and dripping with emotion, “Dreamy Smiles” is a friendly reminder of how incredible “that smile” was. 

This song is beautiful enough to take you back in time, but short enough to let you to move on.  

Nostalgia without the sadness.

Just how it should be.

Title: Dreamy Smiles / Artist: The Dining Rooms / Album: Tre (2003)

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)

“Can’t Get Over” by Dinner at The Thompson’s

Title: Can’t Get Over / Artist: Dinner at The Thompson’s / Album: Lifetime Planet Earth (2007)

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