Filed Under:

Two Malian Guitar Greats, Gone But Still Wailing

Play associated audio

Back in 1985, a young Malian named Zani Diabate became one of the first African musicians to release a successful album in Europe. He was soon crowded out by a flood of superstar African singers, but for anyone who experienced Diabate's rocking guitar tone and edgy African phrasing, the sound is unforgettable.

Diabate has a new CD called Tientalaw, but it's been released under the name Zani Diabate and Les Heritiers — "the heirs." Diabate's accompanists here include his own son, as well as the surviving sons of key members from his original band. Their youthful energy is part of what makes this album such a thrill, but when Diabate takes a solo, it's clear who the real master is.

Diabate came from venerable musical stock, starting out as a percussionist and evolving into an iconic guitar player. His fusion of rock aesthetics and deep African melody influenced a generation of Malian musicians — including Lobi Traore.

Traore's last album was called Bwati Kono, or "in the club." That's where Traore thrived, in the out of the way, working-class nightclubs of the Malian capital, Bamako, where he rocked ecstatic crowds into the wee hours of the night. Traore was a little guy, 5 feet tall at the most, but he sang about big things — fidelity, honesty, patriotism — and his electric guitar sound drove his messages home with conviction.

Traore was making plans to tour the U.S. with his band when he died of a heart attack in 2010, at just 49. Diabate passed away a year later, at 64. His heart also gave out, literally as he was picking up his axe to record in a Paris studio.

Despite their heavy sounds, it wasn't rock 'n' roll excess that felled these legends. More likely, it was the relentless grind of hardworking musicians in urban Africa — and maybe the share of those fragile hearts these two great pickers poured into their true grit performances.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

After Sketchy Science, Shark Week Promises To Turn Over A New Fin

Shark Week is here, and scientists are afraid. Not of the toothy swimmers — but of inaccuracies, bad science and the demonization of animals that aren't as ferocious as Discovery Channel has made out.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.