Oumar Konaté Live in Bamako
Review by Bruce Miller
On his 4th international release (and 2nd live recording), the internationally acclaimed guitarist decided to capture a club performance in his home country of Mali. And among other things, this record is a reminder that this massive, land-locked nation is awash in hot guitarists. But while the occasional Takamba groove gives his origins away, Konaté can often come off as less allegiant to his roots than contemporaries such as Vieux Farka Toure or Sidi Toure. Youtube video clips show him, often as not, in power trio format, stomping on pedals and shredding in a way that’s likely to be narcotic to heads out looking for a good groove to dance to. Moreover, two tracks here, “La Plus Belle” and “Ya Foutama,” go straight for the reggae pulse, the stuttered rhythm, as well as some synth-concocted horn lines, held down by a keyboard player. Over such repetition, Konaté can crank out one flanged-out solo after another between verses, which he sings with an urgency that cuts through his playing.
That is not to say that this a record filled with overly-long six-string wankery. It seems that white Westerners, in all their stadium rock 1970s-era glory, still own that much maligned bit of music history. West African guitarists in general, including Konaté, have a better sense of melody, and an ability to know when to say when. Perhaps whatever Western influences they share has as much to do with what not to include as what to emulate. Yet, this is music to fill clubs and get festival crowds moving, and as such, it often feels hyped, slick, and more than a little generic. In fact, it works best when Konaté drops the band and picks up an acoustic guitar for a few songs, as he does on “Merde a la Paix,” a track he rocks hardest on, staying close to the tune’s riff. And considering the song’s title translates to “This Peace Don’t Mean Shit,” the anger feels real.
"Merde a la Paix"
There’s no question that this band kicks up tremendous energy in a club; the disc’s final cut, “Soyeya,” rides an energetic groove and feels like a fitting finale.
Ultimately, Konaté is a richly talented musician and performer, who has tailored his music for the globe without completely sacrificing his origins, which is why so much Malian music has found such international audiences in the first place.
- Bruce Miller
Not from the record, but you get the feel of a live show in his hometown