tue 27/02/2024

Albums of the Year 2022: Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee - Bamanan | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2022: Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee - Bamanan

Albums of the Year 2022: Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee - Bamanan

Magical mix of ancient and new

Rokia Koné in full splendour

I am a sucker for Malian singers. I have been ever since I made a couple of films there at the end of the 1980s. According to ancient tradition, the jalis, and other singers have a mission: to open the hearts of those who hear them, and to fill them with healing and courage. Thirty years on, Rokia Koné keeps the flame going and touches me in the same way.

Her first solo album, the highpoint of the year for me is, a collaboration with US producer Jacknife Lee, who brings to the combination exquisite taste and a profound complicity with West African soul. He is always at the service of the singer and her songs, never upstaging her or self-consciously modernising her sound with digital effects.

Rokia is one of the Amazones d’Afrique, who performed on the Main Stage at WOMAD this year: as good a show as I have seen them do – singing out for matriarchal power, along with captivating dance routines and a way of drawing the audience in without having recourse to the clichés of rock performance. Also at WOMAD, and as usual, among many discoveries: I was swept off my feet by Tantz a wild Balkan/ Klezmer band from Leeds.  I caught Abel Selaocoe several times, not just late night at WOMAD – with a band and solo – each time giving a show-stopping and totally original set, taking his cello from Zulu rhythms to Bach and back, and stretching his voice with the brio of a shaman channelling the ancestors. A discovery: the all-woman vocal group Howl, producing wondrous sounds in the unique Iron Age-style turf-roofed roundhouse in Dorset for one of this year's intimate and captivating Jaminaround evenings.

I still get great pleasure from trawling randomly through YouTube, and coming across musical moments that blow me away: such as “Bee Vamp”, from an Eric Dolphy Quintet live set at the Five Spot in 1961 – the star of which is pianist Mal Waldron, who backed by minimal bass from Richard Davis, gives an eerie foretaste of the experimental house music pioneered by Detroit producer Theo Parrish. Or a sensational piece of filmed gospel from the Staples Singers singing “Sit Down Servant” in the early 1960s.

Speaking of gospel – another live moment of ecstasy was seeing Bob Dylan towards the end of his UK tour, with a version of “You Gotta Serve Somebody” that would have made a believer of anyone in the audience.  In these times of uncertainty and recurrent horror, music is the great healer I find. Without it, there would be too much reality to bear unscathed.

Two more essential albums of 2022

Abel Selaocoe - "Where is Home (Hae ke Kae)" (Warners)

Beyoncé - "Renaissance" (Parkwood Entertainment)

Gig of the year

Bob Dylan, Bournemouth International Centre

Track of the year

Rokia Koné and Jacknife Lee - "Kurunba" from Bamanan

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