Acoustic Africa: Habib Koité And Vusi Mahlasela

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Acoustic Africa: Habib Koité And Vusi Mahlasela
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Swallow Hill Music says
Habib Koité was born in 1958 in Thiès, a Senegalese town situated on the railway line connecting Dakar to Niger. Habib comes from a noble line of Khassonké griots, traditional troubadors who provide wit, wisdom and musical entertainment at social gatherings and special events. Habib grew up surrounded by seventeen brothers and sisters, and developed his unique guitar style accompanying his griot mother. He inherited his passion for music from his paternal grandfather who played the kamele n'goni, a traditional four-stringed instrument associated with hunters from the Wassolou region of Mali. "Nobody really taught me to sing or to play the guitar," explains Habib, "I watched my parents, and it washed off on me."

Habib takes some unique approaches to playing the guitar. He tunes his instrument to the pentatonic scale and plays on open strings as one would on a kamale n'goni. At other times Habib plays music that sounds closer to the blues or flamenco, two styles he studied under Khalilou Traoré a veteran of the legendary Afro-Cuban band Maravillas du Mali. Unlike the griots, his singing style is restrained and intimate with varying cadenced rhythms and melodies.

Twenty years ago, folk-singer, world-troubadour and widely celebrated poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela, simply known as “The Voice”, recorded his first album, When You Come Back. The title-track instantly became an anthem in Vusi’s native South Africa as his country fought hard to end, and then heal, from the brutal Apartheid regime that had divided the country since 1948. In celebration of this milestone, Vusi will release Sing to the People – a live album recorded at the Lyric Theatre in Johannesburg.

Sing to the People contains joyful performances of songs recorded throughout the first twenty years of Vusi’s career as well as the visceral sounds of an audience responding to every familiar note. In the a capella intro to the song “When You Come Back,” Vusi’s signature and unmistakable bird-like voice soars “Sing Loud and SING TO THE PEOPLE.” Although written nearly 25 years ago the meaning of the song has evolved but the prevailing theme remains the same. It’s a “call for humanity,” says The Voice. “I ask that we ‘give something to the world and not just take from it.’” The message is universal and remains relevant today.
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By: Swallow Hill Music

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