Boubacar Traoré: Dounia Tabolo

by Stella Landry

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Boubacar Traoré continues to bridge the gap between world music and authentic Mississippi blues. In his playing and singing one can hear the beauty of African blues and phrasing colored with the ornaments of the deep South bluesmen like: Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters. The acoustic guitarist from Mali has a fluid playing style that has evolved over time combined with a gentle vocal style. His music is based in the hypnotic cross rhythms of his native Kassongé region. With vocal harmonies found in many African musical styles, Traoré has a distinctive sound that is superb world music. His latest album, Dounia Tabolo presents thirteen tracks that are imaginative, varied in instrumentation and vocal textures, with deep grooves enhanced by hand percussion. The French harmonica ace Vincent Bucher plays on four cuts. Also, on the project is Alassane Samaké (calabash), Cedric Watson (violin), Corey Harris (guitar), Vincent Bucher (harmonica), and Leyla McCalla. It is McCalla that adds a beautiful vocal counterpoint to one of Traoré’s most famous songs, “Je Chanterai Pour Toi,” and the singer seems energized by the interplay. The result is a delightful collection of sound that will speak directly to your music lovin’ heart!

“Dounia Tabolo” starts with a bluesy figure from Traoré, who is soon joined by Bucher and the band. The feel is African based with its syncopated rhythmic figures and hypnotic repetitive harmonic structure. Traoré’s voice is chant like in delivery between the ensemble figures that act as a section cadence. The harmonic, violin and guitar solos are excellent and bring in more blues colors and phrasing.

On the midtempo “Kanou,” in addition to Bucher on harmonica, the Malagasy accordionist Régis Ghizavo joins Traoré. Over Traoré repetitive guitar figure and hand percussion, Bucher, Watson and Ghizavo spin their solos. Traoré’s husky voice is melodious on this track and the song structure is excellent.

The project is a wonderful mix of African sounds with classic blues. The music speaks to the heart in the universal language of music. This is an all-star group, Traoré seems inspired by the expertise and sonic camaraderie that the group shares. His music shares stories of life and love, in musical waves that are rich and earthy, the textures are varied, but hypnotic rhythms and harmonies remain constant. This is the true meaning of world music, musicians exploring several countries’ worth of roots music all at the same time, all from various points of view. That is the beauty of Dounia Tabolo and Boubacar Traoré.

Tracks to sample first: “Dounia Tabolo,” “Kanou,” and “Dis Lui que je L’aime comme mon pays.” The song to take a chance on is “Askia Mohamed.”

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