Mali Music

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Honest Jon’s Records
PERFORMER: Afel Bocoum, Damon Albarn, Toumani Diabate and friends
CATALOGUE NO: HJRCD 1, 538 440-2

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Damon Albarn’s travelling collaboration with musicians in mali came from an Oxfam/UK government millennium project called ‘On the Line’, in which Brits with ideas were parachuted into other countries that straddle the meridian line for the supposed benefit of the locals. Clearly everybody had a great time, but much of the album is a glorified jam session that doesn’t survive repeated listening.

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The single best thing is the voice of Afel Bocoum, whose CD Alkibar has been this column’s pick of the year. The next best thing is a handful of Albarn’s own songs, especially the haunting ‘Sunset Coming On’. When either artist takes charge, the tracks just about make it all worth while. The Honest Jon’s label is better launched by its collection of Fifties calypsos.