The New York Times reports:
Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that the indie rock world is exploring African sounds. Labels like Dead Oceans, Secretly Canadian and True Panther have also begun releasing new recordings by African musicians, those acts have begun playing American gigs, and African music regularly gets attention on the indie-minded Web sites of Pitchfork, Mojo and The Fader.
In terms of geography, the African groups that are beginning to be heard in the United States include a handful from countries like South Africa, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Rwanda. But the focal point of the labels’ interest is clearly Mali, a landlocked nation in sub-Saharan West Africa with a population of only 14.5 million, less than one-10th that of Nigeria.
Both Bassekou Kouyate and Sidi Touré come from Mali, as do Tinariwen, the blind Francophone pop duo known as Amadou & Mariam, Toumani Diabaté, Afel Bocoum and older performers who first became known on the world-music circuit, like Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita and Oumou Sangaré. The country’s reputation as a musical powerhouse has become so strong that Blk Jks is contemplating crossing the continent from Johannesburg to record its next CD there; Jon Kertzer, an ethnomusicologist who oversees Sub Pop’s Next Ambiance label, even wrote a paper titled “Good Golly, Why Mali?”