Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba (Mali)
Blues legend Taj Mahal doesn’t use the word “genius” lightly. But that’s the title he gave Bassekou Kouyaté. Kouyaté earns that accolade every time he takes the stage, and with each release by his band, Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba. A new release is the reason we’re getting to see Kouyaté live here again as they reach fresh electric heights with Ba Power (Glitterbeat Records) due out on May 12 – and make a VFMF stop as part of their 16-date North American release tour.
“In Bambara, ‘ba’ means strong or great, but it also means group,” Kouyaté explains. “This album is called Ba Power because the messages on it are important and strong. My ancestors played ngoni, I play ngoni, my son plays ngoni. That’s my family’s mission.”
He is the Malian virtuoso of the ngoni lute, the West African stringed instrument made from a calabash. Kouyaté has ngoni in his blood, is descended from a long line of griots, and no one has revolutionized the instrument like him. Ngoni Ba features four ngonis, including a bass instrument, two percussionists, vocals from Kouyaté’s wife, Amy Sacko and a reputation for a sparking electricity in concert.
It’s West African rock, steeped in history and stepping out into a future. The band also plays a contemporary role in the life of their troubled country. Kouyaté says, ” Ngoni Ba is one of the Malian groups that are encouraging people to make still greater efforts to return to a better way of life and I feel this is carrying on the role my ancestors have been playing throughout Malian history.”