Issa Bagayogo is in the pantheon of musicians from Mali. Newcomers may find this disc fresh and skillful. It doesn’t do much for me, probably because when Bagayogo’s Sya album came out it sounded like a milestone record in any genre. His playing had an edge and hunger yet he was looking beyond his roots and embracing electronica. The raw, ecstatic, energy was a joy.
Fast-forward to 2008 and my first listen to Mali Koura had me thinking Bagayogo is under contract to produce a dilution for some World Music Themepark, USA (obviously). Panicked by the inclusion of jazz-lite horns, I desperately skipped tracks with the supernatural determination of a man pursued by David Sanborn. A few more listens produced a scathing review. Eventually, out of respect for Sya, I ditched that version, tried another couple of listens and realized that somewhere in these arrangements Bagayogo’s wizardry is intact and in the first half of Mali Koura he is on good form. Faint praise for a man of his talent. The second half, though, put me into a sleep where I dreamed that this was a transitional record to a mature phase. Then I woke up and thought a transition anywhere might be desirable.