BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Mali has been subjected to a particularly ugly and violent civil war in the past three years, with one result being the banning of music entirely in the Islamist-controlled north. (See the film They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile for details.) But that hasn’t stopped Mali’s musicians from continuing to sing for peace and freedom.
Kassé Mady Diabaté does so on Kiriké (The Horse’s Saddle), a collection of vintage and contemporary griot songs. Acoustically accompanied by ngoni player Makan “Badjé” Tounkara, cellist/producer Vincent Segal, balafon player Lansiné Kouyaté and kora player Ballaké Sissoko, Diabaté sings of blessings (“Douba Diabira”), friendship (“Toumaro”) and gossip (“Ko Kuma Magni”), offering defiance without violence. He also salutes “Sadjo,” a hippopotamus and symbol of love and persistence, and uses hunters as metaphors for “Simbo,” “Sori” and “Kirike.” Gentle melodies and warm vocals abound, wrapped in homespun production that makes it sound like Diabaté and company are performing in your living room. The musicians end with “Hera,” a reworked traditional song that openly calls for peace and resonates even at low volume. The message is clear: peace for Mali – for all of us – through music.
DOWNLOAD: “Douba Diabira,” “Sadjo,” “Hera”