Musiques du Mali
Vol. 1 (Banzoumana)
Vol. 2 (Sira Mory)
both Syllart (France)

Compilations that delve into the early years of modern Malian music have been long overdue. Whilst contemporary artists such as Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure and Oumou Sangare now share the spotlight, the major innovators of a generation earlier have been overlooked due, largely, to the scarcity of recorded material. Much of what we know of the period of the early 70s came from the classic series of LPs released through the Bärenreiter-Musicaphon label, which have, unfortunately, never been re-released in full. This situation has been rectified with the release of this two-volume series comprising of four CDs, which present Mali's foremost musicians of the independence era. A brief survey of the artists reveals rare and superb recordings by the Rail Band, tracks from several of the famed Regional Orchestras, Super Biton de Ségou, Kenestar, and the Maravillas de Mali. Mali's diverse musical traditions are also well represented with selections from Fanta Damba, Banzoumana Sissòko, L'Ensemble Instrumental du Mali, Sira Mory Diabaté, and recordings by a variety of folkloric ensembles. Most of the material has never before appeared on compact disc and some tracks have not been previously released in any medium at all, having been obtained from the archives of Radio Mali. An added bonus are the insightful and informative liner notes (in French and English) which provide biographical information on the artists and supply some brief translations of the song lyrics. Black and white photos are also included. This is by far the best compilation of Malian music available to date - a superb collection documenting the finest musicians. - Graeme Counsel

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