Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba

Last night, Jessie Jo and I went to a University of Washington World Series Concert featuring Basseskou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba from Mali.  For two hours, Bassekou and his fellow musicians rocked our world with ancient rhythms and beats from Africa.    The music was so hauntingly ancient and yet so modern.

so strangely familiar this music brings me right back to senegal to my time in the peace corps the first time i heard the balafong i couldn’t believe how exquisitely lovely and powerful such a tiny instrument could be i am brought back to the tam tam talking drums and the circle of dancing and to watching women and men of all ages jump into the circle to dance i watched their feet moving so fast they became a blur

Bassekou Kouyate

Bassekou Kouyaté  is a musician from Mali.  His band is known as Ngoni ba and the instrument he plays is the Ngoni.  The American banjo evolved from the Ngoni and the Ngoni is the “great grandfather” of the modern day guitar (as explained by Bassekou).  The band is made up of Bassekou’s family members, including his wife, Ami Sacko.   Ami’s voice filled up Meany Hall seemingly effortlessly.  Her dancing and her smile warmed our hearts.  Their son, Moustapha, also plays with the band and his virtuosic playing made me think of him as a West African Hendrix .  Bassekou’s parents were both musicians and he comes from a long line of ancestral praise singers.

i am brought back to the heat which builds and builds until i think i can’t take it anymore and then a deluge of rain comes down so hard and heavy it is deafening and cooling the children run out and play in it giddy totally soaked we adults stand under the eaves watching not daring to talk because it’s useless to compete with the thunderous downpour  then it is back to the heat and humidity and to the on-edge-delirium larium-induced anti-malarial tablets  i am swaying to complex drumming rhythms faster than i can think my mind goes blank my heart and body take over and everyone is dancing and laughing and free the drummers are talking to each other with their tam tams tucked under their arms the audience joins in on this ancient tam tam language of beats the music louder and louder until it takes over the heat the sweat the mosquitoes the drums talk deep into the night

Bassekou and Ngoni Ba

In this You Tube link you can hear their music.  I find this music  beautiful and very reminiscent of what we heard last night:

sometimes i think back and wonder if i was really there at all but when i hear this music i remember the loveliness of the senegalese people of their kindness their generosity the offering of a mango their welcoming ways teranga their way of asking how long will you stay instead of asking when will you leave of their contagious laughter that carries the force to double one over of the sweet tea that takes away all discomfort nanga def how are you  mangi fi rekk i am here only jamm rekk i only have peace

Jammin' (Our English word derives from the Wolof word "Jamm" meaning PEACE)

What can I say?  It was an amazing evening and my dreams last night brought me back to my rich experiences in West Africa.


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2 Responses to “Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba”

  1. Rick Says:

    Like the dreamy, free-flowin’ musical rifts and serenades!



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