BKO Quintet is a journey into the heart of contemporary Malian music, combining two of the West African nation’s most well-known traditions, and bringing together four of Mali’s finest veteran musicians: Ibrahima Sarr, Fassara Sacko, Nfali Diakité, and Abdoulaye Kone with French percussionist Aymeric Krol.
BKO is a fresh and modern super-quintet from Bamako (BKO=airport code) who performs an electrified and highly danceable set of Malian music. This band is known for their groundbreaking interplay of the guitar of the griots with the lute of Bambara hunters. It is indeed two opposite worlds that BKO have decided to bring up together in order to develop a resolutely urban music style rooted in secular tradition.
The project began when Krol travelled to Bamako to study the djembefola drum under the tutelage of master drummer Ibrahima Sarr — who’s travelled the world alongside Oumou Sangare. Together, they assembled the core group of musicians to create a completely new sound.
Singer Fassara Sacko's transporting voice brings griot magic, while Nfali Diakité — grandson of legendary donso master Yoro Sidibé — sings and plays the six-stringed donsongoni harp. Abdoulaye Kone, a genius of the smaller djelingoni lute, original bandmember whose busy schedule has prevented him from touring with BKO has now been replaced by the dynamic Mamoutou Diabate since March 2017.
BKO Quintet’s first album, Bamako Today, was a long time coming. It was initially recorded as a live EP in January, 2012, as Mali was engulfed in the chaos of a coup d’etat and armed rebellion in the North of the country. Despite these crises, the quintet persevered, and was able to record more tracks in Paris in January of 2013, finally releasing the album internationally on the Buda Musique label in March, 2015.
Afropop’s Banning Eyre wrote of that album: “BKO Quintet literally formed and made their first recordings amid crisis, and whatever the song lyrics might say, these performances exude a sense of urgency. The ensemble creates an engaging blend of rural and urban sensibilities. Prominent in the mix is the sound and feel of hunters’ music, with the heavy thrumming tones of the donsongoni (hunters’ harp) played by Nfali Diakite, who adds rap-like incantations that evoke ancient days when hunters were the storytellers and reporters of their village societies. At the same time, we have the sharp, nimble sound of the djelingoni (Abdoulaye Kone and Mbaba Sissoko) and portentous blasts of Mande griot oratory from Fassara Sacko.”
Since 2015, BKO Quintet has gone on to tour the world. Their latest release is Mali Foli Coula, which translates as “New Music of Mali”, out since Nov 2017 on the Buda Musique label.
Recorded at the Friche Artistique Lamartine studio in Lyon, France, and directed by the trio of David Kiledjian, Yoan Jauneaud and Aymeric Krol, this album is more visceral and instinctive than their first release and explores the intersection of traditional music with rock, electric trance, and even French chanson.
Though anchored in centuries-old traditions, BKO's music will transport you to the heart of today's urban Mali as well as to the ritual and mystical depths of animist hunters.
North American Booking: Alison Loerke