Music is one of the main cultural resources of Mali. Going back to ancient empires,
such as the Mande empire, there is a rich tradition in praise songs. These malinke or mandingue praise
songs are the exclusive domain of the griots (djeliw), hereditary
praise singers, genealogists and historians, formerly singing on the royal courts.
• The Era of the Big Bands
The traditional music is still alive and performed, but modern Malian music has become more diverse as several other
styles developed over time. The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of the big bands such as the Rail Band,
Ambassadeurs du Buffet du Motel de Bamako, and National Badema.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the more up-tempo Bambara sound of bands as Super Biton and
Super Djata became very popular. Next to these bands, there were successful solo artists, nowadays
filed under the label of Mali blues, such as Boubacar Traoré 'Kar Kar', along with the bluesy Songhaï music of
Ali Farka Touré and his diciple Afel Bocoum. Towards the end of the 1980s,
the thriving Wassoulou groove from the South-East of Mali became extremely popular, made famous by Sali Sidibé,
Coumba Sidibé and slightly later by the then very young Oumou
• The Force of Tradition
The use of traditional instruments is widespread, examples are the kora,
a (mostly) 21 string harp-lute, the bala or balafon, a wooden xylophone
with calabashes as resonance boxes, the ngoni, a 4-string lute, the kamele
n'goni, a youngster's lute, the dozon n'goni, a lute of the hunters, the
m'bolon, a bass lute, and of course several percussion instruments such as the
djembé (of Guinean origin), the tama
(small talking drum) and the doun-doun. The use of modern instruments such as the electric
guitar or the classic guitar is often done in a way to imitate the sound of the traditional instruments.
• International Esteem
Malian music has become quite popular in Europe and North America, which is reflected in CD sales, concerts and festival
appearances as well as a number of awards won by Malian artists. A number of artists have been nominated for a Grammy Award,
several of the nominees won a Grammy Award over the past decade.
Official name: République du Mali
Region: West Africa Capital: Bamako
Official language: French
Main ethnic groups:
Around 15, main groups are Mandé (Bambara, Malinké, Soninké/Sarakole,
Khassonké), Fula (Peul), Bobo, Senoufo and Minianka (Mamana), Songhai, Tuareg, Moor.
Smaller groups are Bozo, Somono, Dogon