Pop music success is built on a balance of two things: familiarity and surprise. The sound of a song needs to feel familiar to an audience so that they immediately grasp onto it. And it needs to offer a bit of a jolt of a surprise if they’re to decide that it’s better than the numerous other songs that they’ve heard recently.
When talking about “folk music,” we think about a guy or girl with an acoustic guitar singing songs about the government. That was music created on the back of North American traditions. It addressed common folk directly.
However, all across the world, there are many different versions of folk music, of pop-folk hybrids. These borrow from the area’s musical DNA, one with which audiences are familiar, and add brand-new elements. Either one of those could have become the default version of pop music had it been the music of the USA or the UK.
The sounds of West Africa are of a particular kind of beauty and power. Dutch artist Teun Creemers brings this music into a modern, experimental jazz context along with Mali performer Harouna Samake. Unlike typical, Western pop music, these are sounds that work on the heart and the mind once you allow them enough space to enter your life. But it is a worthwhile effort. This is an example of how wonderful Mali music is.
By Eduard Banulescu