Bassekou Kouyate is a Malian musician who burst onto the World music scene in 2007 with the international release of Segu Blue. Over the years, he has also played and toured extensively with Toumani Diabate, Ali Farka Toure and Taj Mahal. Jama Ko is the musician’s third recording released in January 2013.

Bassekou Kouyate’s music hinges on the sound of the ngoni lute, the West African string instrument which is considered to be one of the likely ancestors of the modern banjo. Hi own band “Ngoni ba” boasts four different ngoni players including himself on a seven-string electrified ngoni he designed. This unusual formation imparts Bassekou Kouyate’s music a unique pulsating and expressive sound.

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba - "Jama ko" (2013)
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba – Jama ko (2013)

Led by the powerful singing of his own wife Amy Sacko, the extraordinarily upbeat atmosphere of the title track “Jama ko” (meaning “big gathering of people”) must be placed in the context of the political unrest that shook Mali in early 2012:

“The day we started recording the album, the coup d’état started […] Soldiers were firing in the air in the next street. They took over the television station, then the looting started. In that situation you can do two things. You can give up, or you can say, what the hell, let’s carry on. We carried on.” The Telegraph