Habib Koité and Bassekou Kouyate – two Malian musicians incorporating contemporary political subject matter into traditional African folk styles – are each established masters in their own right.
Ever since his first single, 1991’s punchy anti-smoking anthem “Cigarette A Bana (The Cigarette is Finished)”, virtuosic guitarist Habib Koité has been touring non-stop, treating the world to his trademark brand of bubbly, Afro-Funk pop songs with an unapologetically political bent. Since 1994, Koité has performed over a thousand shows across the globe, amassing high-profile fans to the likes of Bonnie Rait and Jackson Browne along the way and even landing a spot on Late Night with David Letterman.
Bassekou Kouyate has had his share of success as well, earning the reputation of “Mali’s Ngoni Wizard” through his tireless innovations in traditional Malian music. Not only was he of the first musicians to electrify the ngoni (a stringed instrument native to Africa), but he has also collaborated with artists from outside African borders, enlisting other musical pioneers like Sir Paul McCartney and Damon Albarn (of Gorillaz fame) to assist in his trailblazing mission. Rhythmically complex yet melodically direct, Kouyate’s music never sacrifices technical proficiency for the sake of accessibility, or vice versa.
Despite both musician’s daunting musical prowess, their performances are far from professional affairs, comparable more to intimate family celebrations. Sharing the stage once again, these two mavericks in contemporary Pan-African music will each be bringing their collective musical chops, personal beliefs, and unadulterated energy to the Union for what promises to be a significant and joyous event.