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Bajourou Big String Theory Review

Live. Released 7 May 2002.  

BBC Review

Reissue of a classic 1993 acoustic session from three of Mali's finest musicians.

Peter Marsh 2002

Bajourou (meaning 'big strings' or 'big tune')is the name given to a strain of Malian pop music usually played at weddings and social gatherings. Though now predominantly electric, its roots were in60s acoustic music that borrowed patterns from the kora and the donsongoni (a hunting harp/guitar) and transferred them to acoustic guitars. Lyrics moved away from the usual Manding praise songs to more secular, romantic concerns, mainly sung by women like Fanta Sacko who did much to develop and spread the music.

This CD (originally recorded in 1993 when African acoustic music was hard to find outside of the country) celebrates the original Bajourou sound and pairs up two of the finest guitarists in Mali (and posiibly anywhere).

Djelimady Tounkara is the guitarist in the legendary Super Rail Band; his fluent, melodic playing echoes the West African mix of traditional forms with elements of 60's Anglo American pop. Sometimes (as on "Mansa")his ecstatic, wandering solo lines recall the acid drenched bluegrass stylings of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, before peeling off into fountains of notes at sound barrier threatening speed.

Partner Bouba Sacko is more deeply rooted in Bajorou tradition; his tumbling, quicksilver melodies echo kora or ngoni playing, spiced with a faint scent of flamenco; his sweetly resonant tone sits nicely with Tounkara's bite and rhythmic precision. His solo on the instrumental "Bastan" is stunning, alternating speedy runs with long, aching lines that he sings in unison.

Gentle, rolling rhythms predominate; the guitarists take turns with short solo statements in call and response to Lafia Diabate'smobile, expressive voice. Occasionally they pair up for dazzling unison lines, giving the lie to any idea that this is just some after hours jam session.

Recorded live in Bamako by Globestyle's Ben Mandleson, both the natural ambience of the recording and the relaxed, intimate nature of the performances make for an engaging, refreshing listen. Big strings, big music.

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