Afel Bocoum: Lindé review – captivating desert blues with a twist

(World Circuit)
The Malian star’s breezy new album is studded with nicely judged guest appearances

Child prodigies don’t always rocket to fame. Songwriter and guitarist Afel Bocoum was inducted into the group of Mali’s late great bluesman Ali Farka Touré in his early teens, though it wasn’t until his 50s that he made a record of his own, when producer Nick Gold cut him and Touré on back-to-back albums on their home turf in remote northern Mali. Subsequently, Bocoum became a star turn on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express shows and the 2002 album Mali Music.

As executive producers, Gold and Albarn have done great work on Lindé, mixing Bocoum’s desert bluesology with fuller accompaniments and adding a clutch of interesting guests. Avion, for example, has the breezy sound of modern Bamako, laden with female voices, guitars and kora. Bombolo Liilo is a lilting reggae piece to which Jamaican veteran Vin Gordon adds his rolling, trademark trombone. Even the spartan tradition of Fari Njungu features a sinuous violin contribution from Joan As Policewoman. While the album cruises easily along, Bocoum’s subject matter is serious. Facing turmoil from poverty and jihad, Mali is, as Bocoum puts it, “on the ropes”. His response, calling for unity and hope, proves captivating.

Watch the video for Avion by Afel Bocoum


Neil Spencer

The GuardianTramp

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