Habib Koite  Eric Bibb

Habib Koite Eric Bibb
Brothers In Bamako

Stony Plains Records - SPCD1362

By David Wilson
October 2013

Over the last few decades the blues genre has evolved from a few small strands of folk, jazz and swing to a cord that contains elements of every other brand of music you might imagine. Most enthusiasts trace the music back to its plantation and slave oriented roots and are satisfied to think that that is the wellspring. This is however not the full story and ignores the possibility of a rich culture and musical tradition which came with those abducted men and women. Such is the arrogance of all of us when we forget the cultural blinders we have been trained since birth to wear.

Brothers In Bamako gives us a bridge back to the African roots which provided the trickle now swollen to a raging current.

This year, the Blues Music Awards honored Eric Bibb as Acoustic Artist of the year for his cd, Deeper InThe Well which I reviewed here back in 2012. They might well have to repeat the honor in light of this release which not only presents a wonderful collaboration with Habib Koite from Mali, but introduces us to a sophisticated and extensive musical tradition that is entwined so deeply into the social fabric of West African society that it would take a college level course to approach even a basic understanding.

Habib Koite is a griot. Griot, is a French colonial word and among many West Africans, djeli is the preferred title. Title it is for such labels, whichever is used, describes an occupation which is inherited and passes generation by generation down the family line. A griot or djeli functions as a poet and a musician who combines the roles of historian, genealogist, counselor, preserver of culture and teller of extemporized, if often apocryphal tales. Clearly one can find parallels here with the blues as we know them.

When these two artists combine their talents they present to us a musical conduit, linking the blues and gospel music of our culture to the west African source from which it arose. It flows naturally, it does not require intellect or refined musical knowledge to access it. While consistently melodically complex it communicates on, emotional and physical levels as well as intellectual. Lyrics may be sung in African French, English or one or two other African dialects, though the accompanying music is always compelling.


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