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iTunes Review

Mali is often regarded as a crown jewel of African music, filled with a wide variety of musical traditions and some of world’s finest musicians. Malian singer/songwriter/guitarist Habib Koite has become a leading musical figure at home and an active ambassador abroad over the last 20 years. On Soo (which means “Home”), he inclusively celebrates his war-torn country by singing in Malinke, Bambara, and Dogon, as well as English, on topics ranging from soccer to circumcision, arranged marriage to peaceful coexistence. Despite the weighty subject matter, these West African acoustic pop tunes are sunny, riding on the back of his buoyant guitar with a young new band providing kalabash and djembe percussion, rich background vocals, keyboards, funky African bass, and even a little banjo (check out “L.A.”). Standouts include the galloping “Diarabi Niani” and “Terere,” where kora great Toumani Diabate and n’goni player Bassekou Kouyate join in. There are a few solo numbers—the instrumental “Djadiry” and a griot-inspired “Drapeau”—that find Koite playing, singing, and whistling to fine effect as well.

Customer Reviews


A fan of Habib Koite new album is good every album there's always something different

Home Run

Traffic, drought and Kardashians may dent the Los Angeles brand, but the city still charmed Habib Koité, the great Malian singer-songwriter and descendant of griots. "L.A." is his tribute song, favorably measuring Southern California’s sun, hills, even livestock, against what his own country offers. “Avoid comparing yourself to a race of heroes/Theirs is a special brew you should avoid drinking,” he sings, in Bambara, before switching to a chorus in English about consoling tequila. "L.A." is an outlier on Koité’s exquisite eighth album, the only song set outside Mali; what links it to the other tracks is the company of musician drinking buddies he kept in California. Social glue—of friends, couples, families, communities, nations—is his thread. On "Soô" (Home), Koité describes tranquil and turbulent interactions, singing in four of his country’s languages, using his acute melodic sense and trademark mix of African and Western instruments—notably a guitar tuned to produce the sound of the kamale ngoni his grandfather played—and a small society of talented bandmates. "Diarabi Niani" (The Pain of Love) captures a romantic conundrum: “We suffer from what we love,” he observes in Maninka, “I don’t want to live without you, but routine is treacherous.” "Khafole" (I Told You), sung in Khassonké, is the cry of a mother whose baby dies after a circumcision—“I said he wasn’t old enough…but [they] did not listen.” Other tracks focus on patriotism, arranged marriage and the social aspects of football. LA, London, Paris, all nice places to visit, but for Koité there’s no place like home.—


Born: 1958 in Mali

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The West African country of Mali has produced some great musicians. But as they age, people have wondered who'll step forward from the next generation. The big answer to that seems to be Habib Koité, who comes from the Khassonké griot tradition, that's the hereditary caste of musicians, but whose eyes are firmly on the future. Born in 1958, his lineage made music a part of his life and it was in order to accompany his mother's singing that he taught himself to play guitar, showing enough ability...
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Soo, Habib Koité
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