Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Musow” by Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba from the 2010 album I Speak Fula on Next Ambiance/Sub Pop.
Inspired by the history of his native Mali, Bassekou Kouyaté creates a blend of traditional West African and American roots music primarily performed on the ngoni, a distant relative of the banjo and a previously under-appreciated instrument of West African music. Kouyaté has spent the last two decades bringing more attention to the ngoni, and has since become one of the most recognizable and skilled players alive. With his groug, Ngoni Ba, featuring four ngoni players, all members of his family, Bassekou Kouyaté has brought the same respectability to the instrument as his predecessors have with the kora.
In comparison to their first album, Segu Blue, which was voted Best Album of the year by BBC Radio Awards of World Music, I Speak Fula, released last month in the U.S., attempts to capture more of the spirit of Ngoni Ba’s live performances. Their music is a tribute to traditional music of West Africa but also reflects rhythms from around the world, felt though rapid melodies and dance beats. In fact, the album’s title itself is a reference to bridging the gap between the Bamana and the Fula people (Kouyaté is of the former, but he plays music of the latter).
While Bassekoi Kouyaté is the main creator of this project, he collaborates with different composers and performers, including well known Malian musicans like Toumani Diabaté, Kassé Mady Diabaté, and Vieux Farka Touré. Kouyaté’s wife, Amy Sacko, lends vocals to the album, as she does on today’s Song of the day.
“Musow (For Our Women)” elevates the role women have in society, praising them for taking care of the children, theirs husbands, their houses, their food, and for being more than mothers and wives, but also friends. The melody, performed mostly on the ngoni, of course, combines Arabic and Hindu sounds and adds a funky groove, all in the joyous spirit of the song’s thankful praise.
If you want to catch Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba live, you are in luck! The group will perform tomorrow night (March 16) at The Triple Door in Seattle. They’re heading down the West Coast and then over to the East, so be sure to check out their MySpace page for specific dates. For now, here’s Bassekou Kouyaté and Amy Sacko, along with Calabash player Alou Coulibaly and Ngoni bassplayer Moussa Bah, performing “Jonkoloni” on a rooftop in Timbuktu: