Malians who sang out against conflict get Songlines honors

Wed Apr 23, 2014 8:07pm EDT
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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) - Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, whose album "Jama Ko" urged his countrymen to stand together just as Mali erupted in conflict, has won the Best Artist accolade in the annual awards for world music magazine Songlines.

Tuareg band Tamikrest, who decried the ravages of the war in their album "Chatma", won the Best Group category.

"Given what happened in Mali in the past year and a half, it's not a surprise that two of these awards go to Malian artists," Songlines Editor-in-Chief Simon Broughton said.

"I'm pleased that it's Malians from other ends of the country," he told Reuters, referring to different fronts in the conflict.

The Best Cross-Cultural Collaboration award went to Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora (harp-lute)player Seckou Keita.

Best Newcomer was Family Atlantica, a London-based band led by Venezuelan singer Luzmira Zerpa which brings together the music of Africa and Latin America.

Kouyate, who plays the banjo-like ngoni and wears flowing robes on stage, has been a mainstay of the Malian music scene for years. He and his band, Ngoni ba, which features his two sons, were recording "Jama Ko" in the capital Bamako when a coup took place in March 2012.

"The title track is a call to Malians to pull together. After that it all fell apart, but it shows the urgency of the message. It made him a statesman figure," Broughton said.   Continued...

Mali's Cheikh Ag Tiglia, Ousmane Ag Mossa, Wonou Walet Sidati, Ibrahim Ag Ahmed Salem, and Aghaly Ag Mohammedi (L-R) of the Touareg desert blues band Tamikrest, pose at Barbican Hall before the Sahara Soul concert in London in this January 26, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files