I first heard Ben Zabo’s music on First World Music. I cannot sing the praises of this radio show enough. If you love African music, you must listen to Akenataa Hammagaadji on WVKR. Zabo recently released his self-titled debut album on Glitterhouse Records. When Chris Eckman first came across Ben Zabo, he was struck by the upbeat, energetic sound of this young singer and guitarist. Zabo and his band spent a lot of time playing at clubs in the outskirts of Bamako, where the competition sets the leaders apart from the followers. He refers to his band as “musical warriors” and they have fought hard to get their music heard.
Zabo’s record is the first album to be released by a Malian of Bo descent, the minority ethnic group Ben belongs to. He grew up infatuated with Afrobeat music, in particular Super Biton de Segou and L’Orchestre Kanaga de Mopti, who incorporated the Bwa rhythms of the Bo people into their music, even though they came from a different ethnic background. Spreading the Bo musical culture abroad is important to Zabo who believes these traditions need to be kept alive with performance. You can see his joy and determination as he works with his band in the studio in this video. The sound and energy on Ben Zabo is reminiscent of the heyday of the Super Djata Band and Moussa Doumbia, full of complex polyrhythmic grooves that are irresistible. Check out the beautiful video for “Sènsènbo (Hommage à Dounaké Koita)” below and ask for Ben Zabo’s LP/CD wherever fine music is sold.