Melodic Links between Mali and Mississippi ; Musicians in the US Are Journeying to Mali to Explore Long- Forgotten Musical Connections between the Blues of Mississippi and Sub-Saharan Africa

By Christopher Blagg Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 2004 | Go to article overview

Melodic Links between Mali and Mississippi ; Musicians in the US Are Journeying to Mali to Explore Long- Forgotten Musical Connections between the Blues of Mississippi and Sub-Saharan Africa


Christopher Blagg Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Located in the West African country of Mali, Timbuktu is more than a sandier version of the mythical Atlantis. After years of Saharan obscurity, the once powerful trading metropolis turned wind- swept ancient ruin is making a cultural comeback. And its triumphant return comes with a soundtrack.

Western musicians have become fascinated with Mali ever since Ry Cooder recorded "Talking Timbuktu" with Ali Farka Toure, a Malian farmer, in 1994. Since then, Living Color's Vernon Reid has worked with vocalist Salif Keita, while Damon Albarn, frontman for the British rock outfit Blur, recently collaborated with Malian musicians on a critically acclaimed CD entitled "Mali Music." Last year, former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant played at Mali's Festival in the Desert, an annual gathering of Sub-Saharan musicians, where he reveled at the opportunity to jam with Farka Toure around a campfire.

The most intriguing musical collaborations are coming from the US, where African-American blues artists are finding strikingly common ground with their West African peers. Blues musician Taj Mahal, for one, has been exploring the common roots between the two traditions since he was a child.

"As a kid, I always felt connected to Africa, it was something I was very proud of," says Mahal. "I was always looking for evidence of these common musical roots, but I was too young to know that what I was doing was called ethnomusicology."

When first introduced to the music of prewar blues artists like the Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and John Lee Hooker, Mahal had a sense that there was something deeper, older in the music.

"They had a sound that indicated it had come from further back," says Mahal. "Their music suggested that it was something that has been passed along."

The connection between Mali and the African-American musical tradition has been recently highlighted in the first installment of filmmaker Martin Scorsese's PBS documentary series "The Blues."

It is quite obvious that several African musical traditions have had a major impact on Western music styles. Jazz, blues, rock and roll, salsa, funk, and hip-hop would not have existed without Africa's influence and genetic pollination. What's intriguing about the Mali connection is that it is so direct and palpable.

In Scorsese's film "Feel Like Going Home," US musician Corey Harris explores possible ancestral links that survived despite hundreds of years of isolation thanks to the slave trade, playing with Malian luminaries Ali Farka Toure and Habib Koite. Upon completion of the film, Harris recorded "Mississsippi to Mali," in which it's sometimes difficult to tell the Mississippi tunes from the Malian traditionals.

Of the musical similarities, Harris remains purposefully vague. "I didn't want to hit anybody over the head with it. It was a natural enough fit, so the music just spoke for itself," says Harris. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Melodic Links between Mali and Mississippi ; Musicians in the US Are Journeying to Mali to Explore Long- Forgotten Musical Connections between the Blues of Mississippi and Sub-Saharan Africa
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.