Andra Kouyaté is a griot from one of Mali’s most musical families. He expands the traditional sounds of Malian music, mixing desert blues with influences from West Africa and beyond. Andra and his young band, Sèkè Chi, have put together a remarkable record entitled Saro, which is a tribute to his younger brother who tragically passed away recently. The album is out July 31st on Studio Mali. Guests on the record include Andra’s wife Mah Bara Soumano, his older brother Bassekou Kouyaté, Amadou and Mariam, Ami Sacko, Harouna Samake, and Lassana Diabaté. Together this incredible ensemble produces beautiful music with deep roots in Mali. However, the band also draws inspiration from a global palette of sounds including jazz, blues, reggae and funk.
“Music is something that has no borders. Music is something that speaks all languages. It has no limits and crosses all cultures. It’s all the blues, all jazz. It can be Malian, Ethiopian, anything. Everyone can understand it and play together.” – Andra Kouyaté
As a griot, Andra is following in the footsteps of his ancestors (the meaning of the group’s name, Sèkè Chi). “The role of the griot is to bring back to life things that are broken between people, between family members, villages, even countries. And to resolve conflicts,” explains Andra. He has toured with Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba; spent almost a decade with Rokia Traore; and most recently has been playing and touring with African reggae legend Tiken Jah Fakoly. He also performs at weddings, social events, and other major secular and religious celebrations in his community. Andra believes it’s important to keep music in the family, so he went back to one of his ancestral villages to recruit young relatives for his band, Sèkè Chi.
Andra developed his own version of the n’goni, the ancestor to the banjo which can produce rapid successions of notes when played at a clip. His n’goni has been modified to incorporate a deeper register to give Andra the bass sounds he enjoys so much. The result is a traditional instrument with a hearty range of tones. You can hear Andra’s bass n’goni harmonize expertly with Bassekou’s n’goni on the track featuring his brother, “Bassekou.” There is a wide range of grooves on Saro, from the reggae influences of the title track and “Yereko,” to the funk sounds of “Aye Anflé.” Andra is a master musician and singer and his young band shines on Saro. Watch the terrific video for “Aye Anflé” below and visit Andra Kouyaté’s website to get your copy of the song.
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