Music Review: Andra Kouyaté and Sèkè Chi – Saro

Andra Kouyate Saro Album Cover

Genre: Ethnic / Malian traditional

Region: Bamako, Mali

Artists’ Website: Andra Kouyate’s official website

Label: Studio Mali

Release Date: 31 July 2012

Undoubtedly, Mali harbours a host of musical traditions hard to find in other places of the world. From Toumani Diabate to Ali and Vieux Farka Toure and from Amadou and Mariam to desert dwellers Tinariwen, music from Mali has captivated the world. Responsible for passing on these musical traditions to the new generations are the ‘keepers of the memories’ or ‘jeliw’ (in French ‘griots’).

Andra Kouyate comes from a respected griot family and he is credited for designing and building the ‘bass n’goni’, a new instrument which is a modified version of the traditional African lute (n’goni or xalam) with a richer bass resonance. Although ‘Saro’ is Andra’s Andra Kouyate And Seke Chi Photofirst solo album, his musical experience is vast. He has played with accomplished artists like Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate and Tiken Jah Fakoly, in 2005 he formed with his brother the band ‘N’goni Ba’ and he has contributed to countless recordings like three albums of Rokia Traore and Habib Koite’s ‘Afriki’ while in 2009 he co-founded the ethnic/jazz group ‘Raaga Trio’.

‘Saro’ displays the versatility and craftsmanship of its creator. There is novelty enough in this record to carve new modes of expression for traditional Malian music while being adherent to their roots. Andra is an artist committed to his community; he sings about his elder brother (‘Bassoko’), about his younger brother (‘Saro’), the virtues of griots as peacemakers (’Lagare’) while he went back to his village and his relatives to form the group Seke Chi (which means ‘in the footsteps of the ancestors’).

Andra Kouyate and Seke Chi – ‘Aye Anfle’:

‘Saro’ is packed with stunning tracks. Album’s opener ‘I Yele’ features solid musicianship with Andra’s bass n’goni being centre stage unleashing memorable riffs and melodies accompanied by a rich, polyrhythmic percussions. ‘Saro’ enthuses the listener with the unmatched blend of Malian folk and reggae/dub, probably a style that stayed with him from his time with Tiken Jah Fakoly on record and on stage. ‘Yereko’, a typical West-African tune, transmits a relaxing mind-travelling groove with balafons (courtesy of Lassana Diabate), n’goni and Andra’s low and deep voice.

Nothing is redundant here, all 60 minutes of this album are utterly enjoyable – every song is a different story. Apart from the skillful band Seke Chi, there is a host of guest musicians like Amadou and Mariam and his wife Mah Bara Soumano among others. ‘Saro’ is the new landmark album straight out of Mali, after last year’s successes of Vieux Farka Toure (‘The Secret’) and Tiwarinen (‘Tassili’). Here you can also download the track ‘Aye Anfle’ fore free.


Discover more music from Mali at Freegan Kolektiva:

  1. Tiwarinen – Tassili
  2. Vieux Farka Toure – The Secret

Explore more music from around the world:

  1. Hijos De Agüeybaná – Agua Del Sol (2012)
  2. Samite – Trust (2012)
  3. Novalima – Karimba (2012, ESL Music)
  4. Niyaz – Sumud (2012, Six Degrees Records)
  5. Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar – Golden Horns (2012)

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