Malian maestro Bassekou Kouyate is a virtuoso picker and musical visionary whose work blurs the lines between West African and American roots music. Bassekou’s instrument, the ngoni, is a “spike lute” and an ancestor of the banjo, sharing its taut-skinned drum body, percussive attack, and varied picking techniques. Since 2005, Bassekou has led Ngoni Ba, the first-ever group built around not one but four ngonis—-all played by members of his family.
Bassekou’s longtime friend and booster Lucy Duran (a BBC radio host, record producer, and Mande music scholar) produced the band’s debut, Segu Blue. Before long, Bassekou and Ngoni Ba were touring Europe and in high demand. I Speak Fula builds on the success of Segu Blue. Its 11 tracks provide a star-studded tour of pan-Malian music, including collaborations with Toumani Diabaté, griot vocal legend Kasse Mady Diabaté, master of the horse-hair soku fiddle Zoumana Tereta, and guitar phenomenon Vieux Farka Toure, Ali’s precociously talented son. The release of I Speak Fula and Ngoni Ba’s first U.S. tour mark the latest leg of an extraordinary musical journey.
I Speak Fula is the first release on Next Ambiance, a new label founded by Jon Kertzer host of KEXP’s Best Ambiance Radio show and Sub Pop co-founder Jon Poneman, and the newest addition to the Sub Pop family. Next Ambiance continues the musical exploration of Best Ambiance, with an emphasis on mind-blowing and life-changing artists with no particular regional or cultural bias.
“Contender for African album of the year.” (5 stars) Uncut
“This is a cracker.” (4 stars) Mojo
“Spectacular.” BBC online
“Truly irresistible.” Music Week
“Fizzes with energy.” (4 stars) Observer Music Monthly
“There’s unlikely to be a better African album this year.” (5 stars) Evening Standard
“Ferociously powerful album … Superb.” The Independent (Album of the Week)
“Soon the world will speak Fula.” Metro
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