Tag Archives: Amkoullel

“You have to get used to the local colours…”

“Yes, yes! It’s a beautiful and modern house, much better than these houses!”, he gestured to the homes that stood behind him.

“Ok, can we have a look inside?”

“Well no, I don’t have the key.”

As we began to grow uncomfortably accustomed to the ways of the Malian estate agent, we had sighed and waited for his moped riding cousin to arrive with the keys. We eventually looked around the flat with its lovely balcony overlooking the road. Beyond the road was a dark expanse (we only made it by evening time), I assumed this was a field or some rocks.

It might be a huge rubbish heap,” joked Mikaela.

Returning by daylight the following morning we found that it was indeed a huge rubbish heap.

Becoming frustrated, we wandered the streets hoping that a chance encounter with a shop owner might lead us to an empty apartment (which we were beginning to suspect was the modus operandi of the estate agents we were having to pay per viewing).


The busy meat market and moped shed in Bamako Coura (New Bamako)

Fruit ‘n veg at last!

Mikaela happy after a tasty chawarma for lunch (Malian style meat sandwich)

The view of the other side of the river Niger and Bamako central- the place we want to move to!

The reality of Bamako’s insane roads!

You have to get used to the local colours” Amkoullel had offered the previous evening. As we sat in the tiny room of an underground bar we had tried to make sense of the sound system cranked up on full volume and realised there was still some distance to make before we could feel at home in Bamako.

The extreme reverb, the delay effects and of course the volume levels…

Only that morning Mikaela had once again woken up with the black clouds of her grumpy homesick mood hanging over both of us and now Amkoullel’s words rang in our ears as loud as the evenings musical entertainment. We just had to get used to the local colours of Bamako.


Laughing Amkoullel turned to us once more and with the wisdom only he can sprinkle on a sentence added, “You won’t be growing old with good ears if you come here everynight…”.

From its manic traffic to the extreme sound of its live music, Bamako has an exhausting energy and the only way for us to love this city is to match that energy, with the same colourful smile that it always seems to offer us.


Festival au Désert 2011: airport jamming…

As we rubbed our eyes of a nights worth of sleepy dust and desert sand Imran rummaged to find the ringing mobile phone. It was Bassekou’s brother (and fellow band member) Foussyeni, who had recently become our Malian uncle. Fousseyni seemed his normal relaxed self, though it seemed quite alarming he should be calling at 9am given the life of almost every Bamako musician we knew remained exclusively nocturnal. Then Fousseyni explained that our flight was leaving in half an hour.

As we rushed into the airport building, looking a little bedraggled, we realized the flight would not be leaving for some time and sat down to enjoy a post-festival jam.

We jammin

Engulfed in his grand boubou, Amanou of the band ‘Tartit’, played the three stringed Tamasheq ngoni bringing the sound of the desert into the departure lounge. Next to him Dimitri from the headlining band Dinamitri Jazz Folklore added sensitive melodies and solos influenced by his Italian heritage and jazz background.

Amanou from Tartit and Dimitri

As Mikaela improvised vocal lines Amkoullel reminded us all of the young and energetic face of Mali, his Bambara lyrics fusing into the mix. Tiwitine later took Imran’s guitar adding the rich tones of North Mali’s musical culture.


Mikaela, Amkoullel and Dimitri

For us this was a jam session where the challenges of collaborating with such different musical styles melted away. With such sensitive contributors, we found ourselves, as so often has been the case on this journey, surrounded by a supportive and welcoming circle of musicians.

Outside the tama (talking drum) spoke to the air as dancers from various bands moved like fire, some barefoot, some in killer heels. They moved fast on the hot tarmac, showing us all their passion extended way beyond a ten-minute choreographed performance.

Tamas at the airport

Eventually, as we boarded the plane for Bamako, we couldn’t help but will our delay to continue. Just for another hour or so…

No easyjet flight!