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Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba Segu Blue Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Some of the most exquisite African music making of recent times.

Garth Cartwright 2007

Segu Blue is a highly accomplished album from Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate. The ngoni is an ancient traditional lute found throughout West Africa and Kouyate appears to be the musician who will introduce it to Western audiences in much the same way his friend (and occasional employer) Toumani Diabate has made the kora internationally popular.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba approach music making in a beautifully relaxed manner, letting notes drift out, one ngoni dancing across another, weaving subtle patterns of strings, while male and female voices echo one another and then merge at choruses. Across 14 bright, melodic tracks Kouyate and co. tell the story of one of the last pre-colonial Malian empires: the Bambara empire of Segou founded by Bitòn Mamary Coulibaly in 1712. The CD booklet comes with much information on pre-colonial Malian life.

Segu Blue is brilliantly produced by the BBC Radio 3 World Routes presenter, Lucy Duran, who does the right thing by simply setting the microphones close and encouraging the musicians to give their best: Segu Blue is traditional West African music at its most natural. Indeed, the best tracks here – dramatic opener ''Tabali Te'' and instrumental ''The River Tune'' – involve some of the most exquisite African music making of recent times. On ''Lament For Ali Farka'' the ensemble conjure up a moody hymn for the late, great guitarist. One can't help but feel that Farka’s spirit continues to live on Segu Blue.

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