Network records have kept up the profoundly high level of quality control exhibited on the first two instalments of this exquisite series
If I may paraphrase badly the French theorists Deleuze and Guattari, the most interesting and important things never happen in the centre, they happen along the cracks between things, where stuff escapes and mixes, where authorship is confused and confusing but always inter-related in some tangled way. The mother of all these cracks or ‘lines of flight’ must be the Sahara Desert. Islam, Animism and Christianity crash into each other, settlers and nomads, Arabs, Touaregs, Sub-Saharan Africans, the Occident and Orient, the great trading languages of English, French and Arabic meet a thousand local tongues. This is the fertile ground in which the appropriately named Network records has looked for the material for its latest release.
For hundreds of miles, the physical manifestation of this line of flight is that most astonishing physical sight of the River Niger. Surrounded by sand and desert, it seems incredible that it doesn’t just drain away. This vast river, home to millions of birds, fish and hippos is the conduit of culture that links the ancient city of learning Timbuktu with musical powerhouse Bamako and on into Niger and Nigeria eventually. The people like the late Ali Farka Toure who live along its sides tend to be highly specialised: some ethnic groups are mainly fisher folk, others pastoralists, settled farmers and still others nomads. Naturally, trading is a necessity and speaking multiple languages a given.
Many of the artists on this double CD can be found not far from the banks of the Niger and nearly all are connected to the Sahara. Indeed Malian musicians are incredibly well-represented on this album: Oumou Sangaré, Boubacar Traori, Rokia Traori, Bassekou Kouyate, Ali Farka Toure, Habib Koite and Amadou & Mariam are there just as are desert-trademark owners Tinariwen. But to complain about this preponderance of great musicians coming from one place is like complaining that the story of bebop tends to favour the New York scene.
This of course only makes it all the sweeter when other sounds come round such as the achingly pretty song ‘Raoui’ by Souad Massi or the tracks by Gigi that benefit greatly from this setting. Morocco, Guinea, Niger, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal all make their own contributions felt on this sumptuous two hours of music.
01: Fanta Bourama — Djélimandy Tounkara
02: M´ba Den Ou — Idrissa Soumaoro
03: Raoui — Soaud Massi
04: Wahrane, Wahrane — Khaled
05: El Nabi — Tiris
06: Kanou — Booubacar Traore & Regis Gizavo
07: Dream After Dream — Markus James
08: Lassidan — Bako Dagnon
09: Keme Bourema — Fula Flute
10: Bati Bati — Gigi
11: Baayo — Cherif M´Baw
12: Humaisa — Abdouolaye Alhassane Toure
13: Bownboï — Rokia Traore & Kronos Quartet
14: Ai Ga Bani — Toumani Diabate & Ali Farka Toure striplet linje
01: A Kind Of Love — Dhafer Youssef
02: Tounga — Seckou Keita Quartet
03: Penda Yoro — Ali Farka Toure
04: Kar Kar — Boubacar Traore
05: Yarab — Malouma
06: Banani — Bassekou Kouyate & Lobi Traore
07: Imidiwan — Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou
08: Kulu — N´Gou Bagayoko
09: Izarharh Tenere — Tinariwen
10: Djorolen — Oumou Sangare
11: Mali Ba — Habib Koite
12: Ce N´est Pas Bon — Amadou & Mariam
13: Eywat Setenafegagn — Getatchew Mekurya
14: Ethiopia — Gigi