Rivers & Blues
Listening Post 132. Unlike Robert Frost, obliged to choose between diverging roads in a yellow wood, the singer-songwriter Moh! Kouyaté was able to take two routes at once. On his geographic journey he retraced the course of the blues from the Niger River, in his native Guinea, to the Mississippi Delta. On his concurrent spiritual voyage he followed the sound waves to the confluence of blues, jazz and classic rock, where he found the energy source for his music. Years before, there was a sign of things to come—born into a family of griots, Kouyaté foreswore the customary balafon, preferring the electric guitar to propel his multi-lingual stories and songs. His magnificent third album celebrates and censures, engages and provokes, as it applies traditional African wisdom to modern conditions—with lessons addressing not only relations between neighbors but also among nations. Fankila (Gossip), an exuberant warning against idle chatter, can apply equally to conversations in the local market and geopolitical tweets: “Today, everyone says whatever he wants,” he sings in the Diakhanké language, “and thus much dirt and many lies are spread” (video 1). His worldview is at the center of the title track—Fé Toki means “Point of View” in Susu—“If all of us looked at everything in the same way, we wouldn’t have any choices,” he observes, “That’s why we should accept our differences and live together in harmony” (video 2). On a more intimate level, he offers a simple message for happiness: Vivons de l’amour (Let’s Live on Love), in Maninka and French (video 3). He also expounds on work, heritage, refugees, racism, and includes a lesson to his son on coping with life’s struggle. Based today in Paris and Conakry, and having taken numerous roads and dipped in diverse waters, Kouyaté offers the best of many worlds. (Foli Son)
Note: For the review of Moh! Kouyaté’s previous album, Loundo, see Listening Post 15, October 4, 2015.
Fankila: Nowadays, everyone says whatever he wants, whenever he wants/And thus much dirt and many lies are spread.”
Fé Toki: “If all of us looked at everything in the same way, we wouldn’t have any choices.
That’s why we should accept our differences and live together in harmony.”
Vivons de l’amour: “For now and forever, I promise to love you…
To be happy, I humbly suggest that we live on love.”