Dimanche à Bamako

30/11/2023From 'Saharan WhatsApp' To The Global Stage: Malian Guitarist Ali "Bounaly" Traore Presents His Debut Full-Length

Guitar madness! All you shred heads out there curious about celebratory grooves from West Africa and lucky enough to have neighbours that will tolerate your outernational listening habits, this one just might be for you: With the weekend rapidly approaching, we feel it's due time to turn up a few decibels and rock out. Fresh out on the always trustworthy Sahel Sounds imprint of Christopher Kirkley is this six-track delirium by prodigious Malian guitar player Ali "Bounaly" Traore. Bounaly, which is his stage name, first came to our attention as part of Sahel Sounds' notorious 'Saharan WhatsApp' series and his now-released debut full-length is even more intense. 

"Dimanche à Bamako" was captured at an actual live performance and "is a Malian colloquialism, in reference to Sundays as a day of celebrations. On any given Sunday, the well dressed head out en masse to various festivities happening throughout the city. Neighborhood streets are blocked off, tents assembled over in impromptu courtyards, colorful carpets laid down, and sound systems [erected]." Or as Bounaly describes: "Everyone has time; people are free to go because there is no work on this day. It's the day to relax." Or party. This particular live recording sees Bounaly and his associates – Alousseyni Maïga (vocals), Abdoulaye Touré aka DJ Sali (vocals), Mahamadoun Samba aka Sangho (drums) and Ibrahim Cissé aka Basalah (calabash) – tear it up at a wedding for the North Malian diaspora.

Bounaly himself hails from Niafunke in the North of Mali (coincidentally the birthplace of Ali Farka Touré), but relocated to the country's capital along with many others as a result of the region's invasion by jihadists and ensuing chaos. Born to a Bambara father and a Songhoy mother, his uncle just so happens to be Afel Bocoum. Now blazing a trail in his own right, Bounaly's "Dimanche à Bamako" outing is "a raw and frenetic take on Northern Mali desert sound," a breathtaking "mix of regional favorites, traditional standards, and originals. Long songs with looping rhythms, pounding kick drums, and electric shredding guitars, puctuuated by shout-outs to the guests of honor." This furiously resounding, unrelenting debut is nothing for the faint of heart. Hard to imagine anyone steering clear of the dancefloor with this music blaring out the speaker system. Our best regards to the newlyweds and all those lucky enough to be in attendance that day. Who knew Sundays could be this raucous?!

Be sure to give Bounaly's 2022-released "Nord Bleus" EP a listen too.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom