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Issa Bagayogo - Timbuktu - 2002


Singer-songwriter Issa Bagayogo offers an innovative take on the rich musical tradition of Mali, his native land, combining his roots based on acoustic textures with the sounds of electronic music and dub. The result is one of the most personal and original fusions between West African traditional music and electronic music that can be found today, adding to that movement that has been called "afro-electro".

Released by Six Degrees, Timbuktu's recording began in Mali, where Bagayogo began to incorporate funky bass lines and electronic beats into the rich Wassulu tradition (century-old culture of the south-west of the country). Along with his ngoni, his velvety voice and with the production of Yves Wernert, Issa's songs are about community issues and social denunciation.

The most compelling aspect of Timbuktu is the way the rhythms come together, both those that belong to a western context of club music and the traditional sounds of griot music. "Baro", with its blues guitar, catchy backing vocals and acoustic yet contemporary sound, is a good example of this. "Sisi", which is about drug abuse by youth, begins with the ngoni and includes the balafon, traditional drums, a wind section and soft female choirs. "Tounga" has the sound that defines the Current Afro-pop: sharp electric guitars, rock tempo and a vibrant bass; it is in this song that Bagayogo sings about emigration and the fight for cultural and artistic integrity.

"Dambalou", a song composed in honor of the warriors who built the Mandingo empire, has been thoroughly worked, with a slowed electronic rhythm, an excellent acoustic guitar solo, and the sounds of Brazilian samba. On the other side of the musical spectrum of this album is precisely the piece that gives title to the album, "Timbuktu", which has a sound full of blues, timeless, even with a touch of Arabic roots, drinking from the same musical influences that other great figures from Mali such as Ali Farka Touré and Habib Koité. Bagayogo's lyrics idealize Timbuktu as a multi-ethnic city, where Muslims, Christians and people from different ethnic groups in Mali live together in harmony.

"Gnele" has an electronic rhythm that already sounds like a mix for dance floors. "Nogo" ("Pollution") has one of the most sophisticated productions of the work, thanks to the combination of traditional instruments and Issa's voice. "Saye Mogo Bana" is a fusion of acoustic and digital percussion, electric and acoustic strings, modern production techniques, and a timeless theme, "death makes flesh disappear, but not your name." And "Dama", the piece that closes the album and that also deals with death, is a party that manages to offset the weight of acoustics and electronics, recalling one of the oldest traditions in Mali: the drums that serve to mark funerals.

The late Charlie Gillet, one of the great BBC personalities who promoted the "BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music", said at the time of Issa Bagayogo: "The more I listen to his music, the more I think it is destined to become a classic. of African music in general and of the Malian scene in particular ". 

Tracks list:

01. Sisi

02. Baro

03. Tounga

04. Nogo

05. Timbuktu

06. Dambalou

07. Toroya

08. Saye Mogo Bana

09. Banani

10. Gnele

11. Tamagnoko

12. Dama

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