Photo by Manuel Lagos. L-R: Lansine Kouyaté, Kasse Mady Diabaté, Badjé Tounkara, Ballaké Sissoko
So often when we talk about music from Mali, politics overshadow everything. Really, with the state still in turmoil from the uprising in the north, and suspicion of the motives behind French intervention constant, how can it not? Often, the music and the politics are intertwined in ways that result in music that is both startling and beautiful. Music does not exist outside the world, so why not talk about everything? This doesn’t mean that it can't be gratifying to hear music that stands outside the dominant narrative of strife and just exists as something to stir the spirit. If you were to argue that, in today’s world, making music that gives solace without concern for the market or fads is inherently just and political, I wouldn’t disagree.
Kassé Mady Diabaté has been making some the most beloved music from Mali, both avant and traditional, since the 1970s, following in the footsteps of the griot tradition (a caste of musicians and storytellers integral to the culture of Mali and West African in general). His newest album, a collaboration with Malian kora virtuoso Ballaké Sissoko and French cellist Vincent Segal, showcases the griot’s) rich baritone. The new album, Kirike, came out in Europe this year and is due for an American release on January 6th on Six Degrees Records. Kassé Mady Diabaté is revered worldwide as one of the great griots of his generation, and has one of the most sublime voices in all of Mali. Check him out because of that, and check him out because you’d be a fool not to. He was good enough to let Noisey share the first single of the record, “Simbo,” below.
Zachary Lipez is on Twitter.