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Playlist: Inspiration from Mali

With everything currently going on, I sure could use something joyful and life-affirming. Something to give me hope, comfort, and peace. I’d imagine you could use it too.

I made this playlist of entrancing, beautiful and at times mind-bogglingly grooving music from Malian musicians Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure, and Toumani Diabate that has inspired me so much over the past 5-10 years. I hope it can bring some joy and ease to your day.

Oumou Sangare’s voice hits you in your soul. It’s a heart-opening experience to take in the wisdom she is emanating. Whether you know the language or not.. the message comes across. Imbued with grace, energy, and deep conviction, her music has the power to change the world (and it has). It’s music that will free you and let your spirit soar. The great Oumou Sangare is a ground-breaking Wassoulou musician, social justice advocate, and entrepreneur.

Toumani Diabate’s transcendent kora music has saved me more times than I can count. I especially love his solo recordings, the albums Mande Variations and his first album Kaira. This music will take you to another plane of existence. Amazingly, he and his fellow griots (djelis) come from an uninterrupted 700-year ancestral lineage. And he is clearly attuned to and knowledgable about so many other traditions of music. I love this man’s music so much, he’s been a huge inspiration and I hope you get to know it and love it too.

Ali Farka Toure is one of the most well-known musicians from Mali. A lot has been written about him and I won’t try to sum it up here. I’ll just say, what draws me to his music is this feeling of a trance. The refrains are like mantras, bringing you deeper into the experience. It’s music that carries me forward, through the rough patches, down the dusty roads of life. Ali’s life story is completely fascinating too – born in a rural desert area, the only surviving child out of ten, and only becoming known to the world outside Mali at the age of 50.

These three musicians inspired much of the music on my latest album Embrace. They’ve had a lasting imprint on my life and music and I am so so grateful for them. There are more musicians from Mali I’ve gotten really into more recently, whose music I’ll include on a later playlist: Ballake Sissoko, Kasse-Mady Diabate, Salif Keita, Sali Sidibe, and many others.

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