A Malian's Musings about Music and Mali…

“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

“Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” by Beck

I really hesitated about whether to put this version up or whether to go with the original by “The Korgis” released in 1980.  My heart went with Beck’s version probably because of how I feel about the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004 – Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet) which is where I first heard the song.

This song is about second chances.  The endless opportunity afforded to us by every second of life, to take a new direction.

Be who you want to be.

Title: Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime / Artist: Beck / Album: Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind Soundtrack, 2004

“Friction” by Morcheeba


Part of the reason I’ve always loved the UK is its music scene.  It is home to many of my favorite artists/bands: Tricky, Portishead, Jamiroquai…the list goes on and on.

“Morcheeba” belongs to that elite list of bands that have developed a cult-like following over the years.  Their sound is part trip hop, part RnB, with an infusion of classic Reggae.  Their arrangements are lush and usually organic, meaning that they produce mostly music that has “live feel” to it.  I can only imagine how great they must be on stage…

On Friction, the band takes a political stance against the country’s legal system and admonishes the relative ease with which citizens get prosecuted.  “Friction turning to fire” highlights how efficient the “system” is at stifling any opposition.

Considering the fact that the name “Morcheeba” actually means “the way of Marijuana”, I think it’s pretty clear what their sound caters to:


Title: Friction / Artist: Morcheeba / Album: Big Calm, 1998

“Tajabone” by Ismael Lo

The “Blues” genre is perhaps a more likely forum for the interaction between a guitar and a harmonica than a classic west African song.  However, as another testament to how global music is, we find them here on this African masterpiece.

Tajabone is the song that put Senegal’s Ismael Lo on the world map with its instant success on the European music charts back in 1992.  Ismael Lo is revered for his versatility.  He expertly alternates between his guitar, a harmonica and vocals during his live performances. Lo was a guitarist for Super Diamano, a “Mbalax” blues band, for five years before leaving to start his own solo career. He is often referred to as the “Bob Dylan of Senegal” because of his guitar and harmonica combination coupled with his conscious lyrics.


Title: Tajabone / Artist: Ismael Lo/ Album: Ismael Lo, 1991

“Tanto Tempo” by Bebel Gilberto

“Tanto Tempo” is about living in the moment without the need to rationalize or question anything.  It’s about recklessly immersing yourself in the “now”, which is the ultimate acknowledgement that it is all there is.

Every day is good day.

Title: Tanto Tempo /Artist: Bebel Gilberto /Album: Tanto Tempo, 2000

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