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World Music Matters

Brothers in Bamako

Audio 08:52

Guitarists Eric Bibb and Habib Koïté are each established musicians in their own fields. Blues for the African-American Bibb, the music of Mali for Koïté.


They met 10 years ago when recording material for the compilation album Mali to Memphis which explored the African roots of blues music.

"It was always a dream of mine to record something one day with Habib," says Bibb, who has spent the last 30 years exploring the roots of Delta blues (Bukka White, Robert Johnson or Reverend Gary Davis).

Recorded in the Malian capital Bamako in January this year, their joint album Brothers in Bamako is a dream come true for Bibb.

All the more significant because it marked his first visit to West Africa.

"I needed to make that journey", he says, "It felt like coming home."

Habib Koïté is an accomplished guitarist and singer/songwriter. He knows the traditional melodies of Mali inside out, whether it's the more lively Wassoulou or the more bluesy Songhai.

While he's accustomed to adding groove to traditional melodies, he enjoyed taking the pace down, going more slowly on this album.

The album was recorded before the crisis broke out in northern Mali.

But the song Timbuktu expresses Koïté's concern for the town, which grew out of a well of hope.

Since the tragic destruction of Timbuktu's centuries-old mausoleums by Islamic extremists in June this year, the song takes on a haunting air. Koïté and Bibb express a joint wish for that well to be filled with hope once more.

Habib Koité and Eric Bibb play at Café de la danse in Paris on 2 December. And will be touring France in the spring of 2013.

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