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Blues From Mali Coming to Bishop Hill

As part of a world tour, the west-African group Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba will perform a live concert Sunday, April 23rd at Bishop Hill Creative Commons, located at 309 N. Bishop Hill St, Bishop Hill, IL. The show will begin with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m, with music starting at 7 p.m., and is open to guests of all ages. A $25-35 donation is suggested.

Bassekou Kouyate, descended from a long line of griots (storytellers/historians), is Mali's legendary master of the ngoni, an ancient West African lute that is an ancestor of the banjo. Renowned for his innovations, he takes the ngoni into the 21st century and is credited with creating the first ensemble featuring ngonis of different sizes to provide the different 'voices' needed for the music.

In his long career, he has collaborated with such musical icons as Toumani Diabate, Ali Farka Toure, Taj Mahal, Paul McCartney, Bono, Bonnie Raitt and Bela Fleck, and toured the world with his powerful Ngoni Ba ensemble. Ami Sacko, Bassekou's wife, performs lead vocals and has been called the "Tina Turner of Mali." The concert will continue the celebration of Bassekou's last album, Miri (2019), which was one of the Best Albums of the Year in Songlines magazine and was #1 in the world music charts in Europe in February and March of 2019.

Bassekou Kouyate, born in the small village of Garana, is unquestionably the most innovative and exciting Malian musician to have emerged in recent years. Having defied tradition, he continues to push the boundaries of his ancient musical heritage. His band Ngoni Ba features remarkable lead vocals of Ami Sacko, the ngoni in several differing tonal sizes, and percussion (talking drum, yabara, and calebasse). A major star amongst the new generation of African musicians, Bassekou has been revolutionary in establishing a new role for the ngoni, one of the oldest string instruments in Africa. Comprised of three strings, a calabash gourd and a wooden stick, it has been used for centuries as a secondary orchestral instrument and ceremonial device. By adding strings, developing new techniques of playing and defying tradition by plugging it in and experimenting with sound effects such as the wah-wah pedal, Bassekou has brought the instrument into the musical foreground where it is now a prominent feature of many Malian bands touring today. In Bassekou's hands, this instrument has grown to accommodate a wider melodic range and versatility, embracing western styles such as jazz, blues, and rock 'n' roll.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba, which was formed in 2005, have performed at festivals around the world, including WOMAD, Glastonbury, and the North Sea Jazz Festival, and played hundreds of shows at prestigious venues, including the Royal Albert Hall in London and Carnegie Hall. The group recorded 5 albums: Segu Blue, which won two BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music; the Grammy-nominated I Speak Fula; Jama Ko, which won Bassekou the Songlines Best Artist award in 2014; Ba Power, which was infused with rock'n'roll energy; and Miri, a reflective album focusing on love, friendship and family in times of crisis.

Folk singer Halley Neal will open the show and local painter Atlanta Dawn will be painting live during the concert.

The following two days Bassekou and his bandmates will be visiting area schools as part of Crossroads Cultural Connections visiting artist program.

Tickets are available via Eventbrite. For more information please visit

This event is hosted by Crossroads Cultural Connections and is funded in part by grants from Quad City Arts and Illinois Humanities.

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