Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko
Bassekou Kouyate has long been the go-to guy for session ngoni (a West African string instrument), he started his band Ngoni Ba (‘big ngoni’), consisting entirely of ngonis of various sizes in the mid noughties. Jama Ko is their third and most accomplished album, and also Kouyate’s most overtly political work yet.
That’s reflected in his choice of guests and his lyrics, which call for peace, unity and tolerance in a country threatened by religious fundamentalism and political instability. Most of the vocals are by Kouyate’s wife, Amy Sacko, who has an agreeably stern griotte style. On ‘Kele Magni’ she duets with the thrilling singer Khaira Arby, whom Islamists have tried to silence.
Another highlight is the lurching ‘Mali Koori’, featuring gravelly voiced guest Zoumana Tereta. Kasse Mady Diabate and American bluesman Taj Mahal are the other new voices. There’s a good balance of upbeat and calmer material on this varied and accessible set.