Habib Koité and Bamada
at Revival in Toronto March 25
presented by Small World Music
Habib Koité and Bamada delighted a packed house at Toronto's Revival last night in a concert characterized by wonderfully intricate music and the laidback and unforced Malian charm of Koité himself along with the rest of the band. It's a testament to the infectious nature of the music that I'm still singing Wassiye - which they did as part of an encore that also included Cigarette Abana, an early hit - even though I don't know what the words mean.
They played a generous set of about two hours by my reckoning, time that flew by in a whirl of music and a crowd that couldn't keep still. Born to musical parents, Koité's education and career began early, and he blends various styles of Malian music to create his own vibe. He's been recording since 1991 and touring the world since 1994. The musicians played balofon, a traditional West African instrument that resembles a xylophone, with both percussive and tonal effects, along with electric guitar, bass and drumset, talking drum and kora in a blend of electric and traditional instrumentation. Koité himself plays the guitar, tuned to a pentatonic scale, a unique approach that I'm told is similar to the way one would play the kamale n'goni, a West African stringed instrument. The result is a sound that's bright and tropically flavoured, with echoes and shades of flamenco in its kinetic style.
It was clearly a love in that flowed back and forth between audience and stage, with African dance enthusiasts not only coming on stage but brought up on stage by the genial members of the band, including a couple of ladies from South Africa and Tanzania who really knew their stuff. At the end, one band member lingered on stage, having his picture taken with fans, while Koité autographed CDs at the front. It was one of those nights when you're more than a little bit sorry that all the music and love had to end.
Check out his remaining North American tour dates here - and I'll leave you with more of the music here.
Images by John Leeson of www.to-music.ca from their show at Revival last year.