Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba

Bassekou Kouyate is one of the true masters of the ngoni, an ancient traditional lute found throughout West Africa. It is the key instrument for the griot culture. Unlike the kora whose history goes back only a few hundred years, the ngoni has been the main instrument in griot storytelling going back to the 13th century during the days of Soundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire. The repertoire Bassekou plays is Bambara music from the region of Segu. Bambara music is pentatonic in nature and as close to the blues as you can get in Africa. Over the years Bassekou has collaborated with many musicians from his homeland Mali and internationally. Bassekou was one of the key musicians on Ali Farka Toure’s posthumous album release ‘Savane’ having also previously toured with Ali Farka Toure, stunning audiences worldwide as the band’s solo ngoni player. He has played in the Symmetric trio alongside Toumani Diabate (kora) and Keletigui Diabate (balafon), was also a part of Taj Mahal’s and Toumani Diabate’s ‘Kulanjan’ project and features prominently on Youssou N’Dour’s latest album ‘Rokku mi Rokka’ and Dee Dee Bridgwater’s ‘Red Earth’.

Bassekou was born in a village called Garana, almost 40 miles from Segu, in the remote countryside on the banks of the Niger River. He was raised in a traditional musical environment, his mother a praise singer and his father and brothers exceptional ngoni players. Bassekou moved to Bamako when he was 19 years old where he met the young Toumani Diabate. By the late 1980s Bassekou was part of Toumani’s trio and they recorded their first albums together, ‘Songhai’ and ‘Djelika’. In 1996 Bassekou married the singer Amy Sacko (the so-called “Tina Turner of Mali”) and they have been in high demand for the traditional wedding parties that happen in the streets of Bamako.

After many years being a ‘sideman’ to many musicians both in Mali and globally, Bassekou has now put together his own band, Ngoni ba (meaning “the big ngoni”), Mali’s first ngoni quartet.

“..a MUST for anyone seeking
new musical adventures.”

“..ancient and utterly
contemporary … like some
African answer to Hendrix.”

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