In a previous post, we told of Canadian banjo picker Jayme Stone’s journey through West Africa in preparation for an upcoming CD based on African banjo music. He has agreed to send us a series of updates from Africa – a banjo travelogue of sorts. Part 2 follows – with photos.
You can read all of his African journey posts here.
Aw Ni Ce!
The last few days have revealed a whole new side of Bamako. We were having a difficult time finding a trustworthy translator and the language barrier was not helping my adjustment to the local culture. Out for an evening stroll, I meet Hamadi Traore who greets me in English with a perfect Brooklyn accent. Turns out Hamadi fled Cote D’Ivoire to live awhile in New York before relocating around the corner from me here in Bamako. One of the kindest people I’ve ever met, we struck up an instant friendship and he’s now my translator and fellow adventurer. A fine start to the week.
There are no street signs or maps to be found, which is why it took some serious hunting to find the studio where I had planned to meet Bassekou Kouyate, the premier ngoni player in Mali. He is at work producing Ami Sacko’s new album with members of Salif Keita’s and Oumou Sangare’s band. I spent the better part of the day seeing first hand how they make records here and even played banjo on one song (I hope they keep it!)
Evening found us at the Palais de Congress seeing Bassekou’s own band. He’s a musical innovator, bringing a modern sensibility to traditional music dating back all the way to the 3rd century. Spent the day after at Bassekou’s house playing and interviewing him about the banjo’s roots in Mali. The exchange was illuminating and I came away with a considerably more thorough understanding of how the instrument and playing style has evolved on both continents. There is an astoundingly close connection between the ngoni and the banjo and Bassekou’s considers them to be essentially the same thing. And I learned some fantastic tunes!
I have no idea what I am going to do next. Blessings and thanks from out here, hope all’s well in your corner of the world.