Mr Bongo presents: The Original Sound of Mali

LP Review: The Original Sound of Mali  (Mr Bongo)

Mr Bongo has always had a special place in my heart ever since early Jelly Jazz days. Pre-digital age if you wanted the hottest new and second hand vinyl there were a couple of blocks of Soho that were packed with specialist shops like Soul Jazz and Mr Bongo. It was quite the pilgrimage from Plymouth.  In those days Mr Bongo was a strange hybrid of hip hop, jazz and world music reissues. It has since gone from strength to strength and is now a record label releasing new music as well as being prolific reissuers of rare and sought after music from around the world.

Having said that I still associate Mr Bongo primarily with brazilian and caribbean music….mistakenly as it turns out, as fleeting investigation of the website reveals a treasure trove of rare african sounds. Nonetheless this latest offering is something special. I’ve been a fan of Malian music for years. Melodically, and rhythmically for some reason Malian music sounds distinct from that of almost any country on the continent. Some west african countries have had no stone left unturned with regard to their early musical heritage whether that be Ghanian funk or Highlife. For some reason I’ve not seen much early Malian music till now. This compilation was inspired by a mix on the Soul Bonanza blog (  called Le Monde a Change: A Tribute to Mali 1970-1991. It was compiled as a tribute to Mali and a call for peace by six of the top Malian music collectors worldwide. It’s a joyful romp through early and influential Malian artists such as   The Rail Band (which produced Mory Kante and Salif Kaita, Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, and L’eclipse de l’institute des Jeune Aveugles. The latter was a blind institute whose recordings were never released but which turn out to be the earliest recordings featuring Amadou and Mariam.

Highlights for me include pschedelic afrofunk tinged ‘Mouodilo’ by the Rail Band. Also worth a special mention is Zani Diabate and the Super Djata band with ‘Fandingna Kouma’. I have the incredible LP this is from and this typifies the driving hypnotic guitar over balafon rhythms. Long before Ali Farka Toure and the likes of Tinariwen became famous, Zani Diabate was already excelling at the kind of guitar lines that Mali has become famous for.  Finally ‘Mali ni Woula’ by the Super Djata Band de Bamako is a slow psych funk masterpiece with a gorgeous guitar solo that drifts into wah wah guitar heaven.

All in all a must for Malian music lovers and available as a vinyl double gatefold LP with beautifully crafted booklet.

At the moment the Soundcloud page is set to private for another two weeks so I’ll link you to that when it comes through. For now here’s the link to the Mr Bongo website.

Posted in Uncategorized