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Segu Blue

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Analog Africa/Open House

Given the recent collaboration between Bela Fleck and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, it’s possible that there’s been no greater spotlight on the West African nation at any other time than right now. Fortunately, all the attention on Mali is casting some light on other worthwhile players as well. Countryman Bassekou Kouyate plays the ngoni, a six-stringed instrument, which is arguably less complex than Tiabate’s 21-stringed kora, but still retains a beautiful melodicism. Kouyate’s 2007 album Segu Blue, issued in the United States this year, contains all the beauty one has come to expect from acoustic music from Mali. And on the blue “Lament for Ali Farka,” a requiem for the departed guitarist Ali Farka Toure, Kouyate and his group Ngoni Ba emerge from the shadows cast by their better-known comrades.