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Mali Music

16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 6, 2002
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Vinyl, Import, April 29, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Collaboration Between Damon Albarn (Gorillaz, Blur) and Some of the African Nation of Mali's Finest Musicians Including Afel Boucoum, Toumani Diabate, Lobi Traore, Kasse Mady Diabate and Mali's Only Female Ngoni Player, Ko Kan Ko Sata Doumbia.

With Mali Music it's possible at last to see how Damon Albarn's foray into Africa has worked out: most members of what Albarn's friend Michael Nyman has dubbed the "world-music police" would probably be happy to give it a qualified thumbs-up. If some of the "Western" tracks are little more than an undifferentiated blur (no pun intended), the Malian ones are a delight. But it's what lies between that's interesting: what Albarn and his colleagues Afel Bocoum , Toumani Diabate, and Ko Kan Ko Sata Doumbia have achieved is best described as "the music of place." In "Kela Village" you can almost see the celebrations going on amid the chirruping of birds and the croaking of frogs; "Bamako City" comes with bags of local atmosphere. This CD was constructed in layers--after Albarn had edited down his 40 hours of raw material, he created collages with new melodies and beats and then sent his tapes back to Mali, where extra vocals and instrumental work were added. We thus get music that actually feels layered: a typical track will start with a simple groove on kora or ngoni, then it will acquire a voice, then some electronic effects, and will finally be enveloped in a seductive miasma of local atmosphere. Apart from some nifty Malian balafon and string work, there's nothing here of instrumental note (Albarn's instrument is a battered melodica), but that doesn't matter, because in this game the final effect is the thing. Disregard Albarn's pretentious guff about this representing the "Africanization of Western music" (where does the boy imagine jazz came from?) but do regard this CD as a healthy omen. --Michael Church

1. Spoons
2. Bamako City
3. Le Relax
4. Nabintoue Diakite (Live)
5. Makelekele
6. Djembe
7. Tennesse Hotel
8. Niger
9. 4am At Toumani's
10. Institut National Des Arts
11. Kela Village
12. Griot Village
13. Le Hogon
14. Sunset Coming On
15. Ko Kan Ko Sata Doumbia On River
16. Les Ecros

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 6, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Astralwerks
  • ASIN: B00006EXE0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,438 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By mattyp4 on November 1, 2002
Format: Audio CD
I went into this CD expecting a westernized take on Mali music... Don't do that. It's not bad, but it's not all Damon, all the time. With that said, it's probably clear that I'm a white boy Blur fan who was pleased with Gorillaz & hungry for more Damon Albarn-related side projects. So the "bad" news (if you even want to call it "bad") is that it's not as Blur-like or westernized as I thought. But on the other hand, it's very faithful to the Mali culture. True, I'm no expert on that, but let's just say I know western music very well & this certainly isn't western!

People have called this album Damon Albarn's Graceland, but I would disagree. Whereas Paul Simon dominated Graceland, Damon Albarn kind of plays second fiddle to the native musicians & songwriters. It's really their album- which is why I consider it "true" Mali music. It's a very unselfish act of Damon's (not to mention the fact that proceeds of the album's sales benefit UNICEF). I think this album's clear intention is to turn the western world onto some pretty amazing African music.

But hell yeah, there are some westernized tracks- you can tell which ones just by looking at the names on the track listing ("Spoons," "Tennessee Hotel," etc)- & they are excellent. I enjoy the other songs, but I'd be lying if I said I bought the album b/c of them. With that said, the best song on the album has to be "Sunset Coming On." Yes, it is a song sung by Damon, & it sounds like it'd belong on Blur's 13 or Think Tank.... & it'd stand out on that album too, just as it does here. It's a beautiful, tender song. I can't think of a song that captures the essence of its title so well. It really feels like a sunset, as silly as that sounds. Give it a listen.

I'd recommend this album to anyone. If you're a Blur/Damon Albarn fan then you'll instantly like a lot of it. But it's the rest (& majority) of the album that will make you appreciate Mali music a little more. Enjoy the songs & broaden your horizons.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "blurskank" on August 8, 2002
Format: Audio CD
damon albarn's latest exploration of world music has taken the forn of 'mali music', an enjoyably subtle mix of native traditions and modern formats, blended with a strong ear for style. infused with a warm,languorous funk and rich, varied instrumentation, the majority of the tracks evoke startlingly vivd emotions. on 'sunset coming on' in particular, the sense of hope and struggle grows out of a goldenly melancholic intro, creating a voyage of sorts. perfectly fitting with the african influence as well as albarn's traditional rock background, it simply shines. the entire album is very mature, touching many points of intensity and inspiration. definitely not something for people who only know albarn from blur's 'song two' (woo-hoo), but for those willing to take a chance and explore his beautiful interpretation of malian sources....and for those in search of the perfect dinner party music.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Laloux on April 25, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Do you need a change? Are you in the mood for something new and exotic? Well then, how does a trip to Mali sound? Good? Then let yourself be carried away by Mali Music, an album conceived and produced by Damon Albarn (leader of Blur and Gorillaz) and the musicians he befriended during his stay in Mali in July 2000. Let them take you along on their adventures, to the very places where Damon recorded over 80 hours of traditional music, accompanied at times by Damon's melodica and humming. This musical project (initiated by the Oxfam charity organization) represents the merging of two different musical landscapes. Damon edited and worked on the recordings in his London studio, enriching them with dubbing and electronic effects. The result is an eclectic album, a total of sixteen pieces marrying Malian and Western music, which takes the listener on a musical journey. A ride on the ... River, a visit of Bamako's Institut National des Arts, and stops at the Kela and Griot Villages are all on the itinerary. You will be surprised and happy to discover how delightfully Toumani Diabaté's kora (a 21-cord harp), the njurka (a traditional violin), the balafon, the ngoni and the Griots' singing mesh with the piano, keyboards, guitars and electronic music. The 40-page booklet accompanying the CD is equally superb.
Do you wish to become acquainted to Malian music without getting bogged down by it? Opt for Mali Music then, the first release of Honest Jon's Records, a label founded by Damon Albarn and his friends from the Portobello Road record shop. With Albarn having given up his rights from this album, some of the proceeds from the sale of the CD will be used to support Oxfam's programme in Mali. Have a good trip!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 7, 2002
Format: Audio CD
This CD is acessible enough to "Western" audiences without being a watered down assimilation of the Malian artists' music into Western tonality. I had a genuinely good time listening to this for the first time, and it gets better with each listen. Very refreshing. Fans of Albarn's work (esp. Gorillaz and Blur's "13") will love this CD. Even if you aren't into his work and just want something unique to listen to, give this CD a listen.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By alejandro f. ramirez on December 11, 2002
Format: Audio CD
yes I think this is a darn good piece of work. I think you should throw away the reasons for Albarn doing this record and just add this to his career in being a part of some of the best music to come out in the last 10 years. I can't give him all the credit for this album the other memebers of this artful work fill in their roles nicely. This album has a vibe that is probably unmatched in the year of 2002. its good, probably better than good, ok, it's better than good, but no need to bog it down with silly sayings. it has great instrumentation and a wonderful feel along with glorious texture to it. done.
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