The San Francisco Jazz’s ‘Sounds of Africa’ series kicks off 13 August with Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba, both musicians serving American enthusiasts with the vast musical riches of Western Africa at SFJazz Center’s Miner Auditorium in San Francisco.
Mali’s Tuareg rockers Tinariwen perform on Saturday 15 August and Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré closes the series on Sunday with his power trio featuring Malagasy electric bassist Patrick Andriantsialonina (aka Patrick Andy) and American drummer Tim Keiper.
The concert as Andrew Gilbert— a correspondent with Mercury News —notes will offer a refreshing outlook on African music from the usual West Africa and Southern Africa music that is common for many events across America with East Africa also being represented. Ethiopian-born US singer/songwriter Meklit Hadero also performs at SFJazz on Friday August 14. A jazz and soul-infused visionary, she co-created the East African Nile Project and is the series’ only artist from East Africa.
Even as Africa contains an array of ethnicities and traditions, Mali is a mass of people with distinct musical cultures. And Bassekou Kouyaté—a griot who traces his lineage to the 13th-century West African empire founded by Sundiata Keita—blends both old and new on the ngoni, a plucked string instrument said to be the progenitor of the more popular banjo.
“He is a very important person for Malian music and probably the best living ngoni player,” Touré says about Kouyaté. “He plays the ngoni like many play the electric guitar and this is a big innovation. In Mali, music is often very traditional, so for an elder master musician to do new things on the ngoni is special.”
Tinariwen also embodies innovation but their sound came as a result of the lengthy conflict between the Tuareg and the central government that came to power after Mali achieved independence from the French in 1960.
Together these artists carry a slice of Africa to the American audience. To find out more about the concert series visit the SF Jazz website.