A few days ago I stumbled upon the video by Karamoko Keita which you can find at the bottom of this post. Although I was looking for something else I couldn't help but watch the whole video. The thing is, this man has got certain 'je-ne-sais-quoi' which really appeals to me. I like his singing style, which is old-school Bambara (pentatonic) without being mouldy. The quality of the video is slightly below poor to hopeless, but just watching the movement, both of Karamoko himself and the chorus in the background, makes me irrationally happy.
I first heard his music during one of my first visits to Mali in the 1980s. To be honest, it was very difficult not to hear it because everybody was playing it, in the streets of Bamako and in every town and village I visited. The children were singing Karamoko's songs and their parents knew every single word of the lyrics.
They were playing this cassette, recorded for Malian radio, and here in the release of the Super Sound label of Monrovia, Liberia. You can see the first song, "Diama", in a video which I posted earlier.
This cassette just oozes old-style Malian music. And if you ask me it even oozes old-style Mali. I can't help but thinking of that friendly and hospitable people I encountered all over the country. People were curious without being nosey, warm without being pushy... They shared the little they had and demanded nothing in return. It was, in short, a country that was easy to fall in love with.
I know a lot has changed since those days, but I am sure these qualities are still there, perhaps hidden under a layer of cautiousness. A defence which may be the result of the invasion from neighbouring countries over the last decades, - or of the opening up to the modern world in general.
This is one of those cassettes with shifting favourites. All tracks are great, so it depends on moods, susceptability and environment which I prefer. When I first heard it it was "Lemourou". In hindsight I think this may have had to do with hearing this in the villages, where little girls were chanting it. I asked them what it meant and they contorted their faces. Later on someone told me it meant "citron" (lemon), but then I saw someone selling limes shouting "lemourou". My guess is it means both lemon and lime.
Super Sound SS-36
And, as mentioned above, here is another song from the same concert as the video I posted before. Karamoko with a somewhat larger ensemble and dancing, which adds an extra element of joy to his songs, if you ask me.