Moh! Kouyaté: Loundo

kouyate1One Fine Day

Listening Post 15. Most singer-songwriters master notes, but few are as steeped in history as Moh! Kouyaté. Born into a family of griots—the West African bards who impart stories and oral history through song—he brings centuries of heritage to his music. Kouyaté’s compositions and lyrics blend Mandinka tradition from his native Guinea (he now lives in Paris) with blues, jazz and rock.  He sings in Maninka and several sister languages from the Mandé family, as well as in French; his band uses the kora and balafon (a wooden xylophone) along with guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, flute and cello. On Loundo (One Day), Kouyaté applies time-honored wisdom to modern conditions, focusing on identity, family and the challenges of life. Yéllé (Be Happy), an upbeat blues number, counsels us to make choices according to our dreams and means and not dwell on what we don’t have (video). Other key songs are the mellow Gassata (Impossible), about how our roots anchor us in an uncertain world; Mabinty, a tribute to Kouyaté’s mother; and the title track, a tender rock ballad that prescribes filling our lives with love because we know that one day we are born and one day we die. And the exclamation point? Perhaps it reflects his philosophy: Take what you are given—culture, name—and put all your strength into it. (Foli Son)

 


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