Bumpy ride to a foreign land
Back in 2005, this blind Malian couple stormed the planet with a kaleidoscopic disc called Dimanche à Bamako, which married glittering melodies to an irrepressible rhythm. Their new record is inferior to Dimanche, but in charitable moments it’s possible to interpret Welcome To Mali as an introduction to the sonic experience of a 21st-century West African nation. I love to imagine a country where the synthetic disco-pop of “Sabali” rubs up against the traditionalism of “Djuru,” which uses the kora, a griot instrument reminiscent of the harp. I envision the sax and trombone blasts on “Sebeke” as honking car horns in capital city Bamako. The album’s multilingual lyrics seem to approximate the language jumble of a street market. If the album is frustratingly uneven—if, despite moments of exuberance, it can also feel like a mundane grind—well, I suspect that also mirrors life in Mali. And almost everywhere else, too.