Eric Bibb & Habib Koite: Brothers in Bamako

American singer-guitarist Eric Bibb and West African singer-guitarist Habib Koité have joined forces for the new album, Brothers in Bamako. The two first met and became friends a decade ago when Putumayo Records invited both musicians to play on Mali to Memphis and they’ve finally gotten around to recording together. More than a simple duet album, Brothers in Bamako is a true collaboration. In addition to singing and playing together, Bibb and Koité co-wrote most of the songs to marry their respective folk-blues and world music styles. Brothers in Bamako will be released on Novemeber 6th.

I’ve been a fan of both artists for so long, I may have been a little too excited to hear their substantial talents unite. I was very disappointed with the two lackluster opening tracks, “On My Way to Bamako” and “L.A.” Perhaps the problem was that Bibb and Koité were divided for those introductory songs. The tracks co-written by and co-starring both artists are much more interesting.

Things greatly improve on their first proper collaboration, “Touma Ni Kelen/Needed Time.” As I’d hoped, Bibb’s gospel-influenced, bluesy folk style and Koité’s fusion of traditional and modern Malian rhythms complement each other perfectly.

The stand out tracks are the multi-instrumental duet “Tombouctou,” a revamped “With My Maker I Am One” (originally featured on Bibb’s Booker’s Guitar album), Koité’s haunting “Foro Bana” (from his Ma Ya album) and a beautifully subtle rendition of Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.”

Other highlights include “We Don’t Care,” the pretty instrumental “Nani Le” and the banjo-driven “Khafolé.”


Eric Bibb Official Site
Habib Koité Official Site

Habib Koité: Afriki

Afriki is the latest effort from Malian guitarist Habib Koité and his band Bamada. The disc was released in September on Cumbancha Records. Koité is apparently known for his unique playing style. He tunes his instrument “to the pentatonic scale and plays on open strings as one would on a kamale n’goni” (I’m quoting his press release there, as I’m unfamiliar with the technique). Koité’s music blends traditional rhythms and melodies from Mali with his own modern style. The result is a very pretty acoustic sound lightly accented with traditional instruments such as polyphonic hunter’s horns, balafón (wooden xylophone), and n’goni (a Malian lute).

Habib’s warm voice and captivating concoction of soft acoustics with exotic horns, strings, and percussion are best heard in “Namania”, “Africa”, “Fimani”, and “Barra”.

“Namania” is a parable of lost love that also addresses the loss of nature and culture in the face of modernization. The brass accented “Africa” calls upon Africans to take responsibility for their own future instead of depending on the outside world. “Fimani” is a harmonica laced love song, this time from the female’s point of view. And “Barra” – which encourages Mali’s farmers, fishermen, and tradesmen to work – throws an unusually bluesy violin into the worldly instrumentation.

The spellbinding stand out track “N’Teri” goes a step further by layering the haunting sound of antelope horns and lute with a chanting chorus of male voices.

“N’tesse” addresses the family as the foundation of Malian society, and “Massaké” tackles the effects of spoiling children. The lovely finale “Titati” is a solo instrumental guitar piece based on the Mandinka proverb: “Try To Know Those Who Love You”.

Habib Koité Official Site

Buy the CD or Mp3s