BKO Quintet’s debut album Bamako Today was recorded in France some time ago and was finally released at the end of last year. It’s a remarkable album which is heavily rooted in traditional music but also contains a very strong contemporary urban feel. The band comprises four musicians from Mali plus one from France.
The French musician Aymeric Krol, who plays an unusual hybrid drum set, helped to put the band together when he went to the West African country to learn about percussion and met up with master djembe player Ibrahima Sarr. The band they created has two lead vocalists, Fassara Sacko and Nfaly Diakite, and their different singing styles complement each other very well. Diakite also plays the cumbersome-looking donsongoni which looks something like a kora but is a traditional instrument used in animist ceremonies.
The band’s other member Abdoulaye Kone plays djelingoni the small ‘guitar of the griots’ which is never usually played together with the donsongoni. It’s an incredibly versatile instrument, especially in Kone’s hands. The music that BKO Quintet makes on the album is pulsating for the most part but also has moments where it’s more subdued. What makes it even better is the inclusion of a DVD along with the CD which contains a 52 minute documentary film directed by Cris Ubermann.
BKO Quintet performed live last night at Naha’s Sakurazaka Theatre as part of the Sukiyaki Okinawa 2015 festival of world music. Their live show reinforced what a superb band they are and their energy and enjoyment was infectious as they urged members of the audience to get up and dance. Probably no-one in the audience understood a word of any of their songs but music transcends all borders. The band was later joined on stage by the duo Sakishima Meeting and another first was surely the improvised jam session in which Yukito Ara’s sanshin and Abdoulaye Kone’s djelingoni joined forces to duet.
Bamako Today is released by Buda Musique.