Habib Koité & Bamada - Somerville Theatre 4/11/2009

montage of clips from the show

Last night we saw Habib Koité and Bamada in concert at the Somerville Theatre. We had last seen them in January at the Festival au Desert in their native Mali. It was quite a different experience to watch them from the balcony of small theater as opposed to from a dune in the Sahara!

The band was excellent, and played tracks mostly from their latest album, "Afriki". They were dressed in mudcloth outfits and seemed to have a lot of fun performing. Habib sang and played guitar, and he was accompanied by Keletigui Diabati on balafon (similar to a xylophone) and violin, Souleyman Ann on drum kit and calabash percussion, Abdoul Wahib Berthe on bass and the stringed kamale n'goni, Mahamadou Kone on talking drum, doum doum, and caragnan, and Boubacar Sidibe on guitar and harmonica. They played with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. They danced around and even invited some women from the audience up to dance with them. The sound quality was great and you could hear every nuance of each instrument.

Habib remarked on the cold weather, saying that they are from the Sahel and they are not used to weather so cold that their nylon strings go out of tune. He also said that he just discovered a new state called "Maine", and that the name was misleading because it sounded like it was the most important one. He says that all he really knows about it now is lobsters and cold.

After the fabulous show, they were selling CD's in the lobby and soon Habib came out to greet fans. I was wearing my Essakane Festival au Desert T-shirt, and we brought a photo of the festival for him to sign. When it was our turn, I showed him the photo and said "We saw you in Essakane." He looked at the photo and said "What year?" "This year!" we replied and I pointed to my shirt. Craig said "You closed the show on Saturday night and rocked out!" Habib jumped up from his seat and gave Craig and fist-bump and handshake. He signed our CD and I asked if we could get a picture of him. He said sure, and then he also signed the festival photo. I told him that we had done some volunteer work in a Dogon village in Bandiagara and he said that they are trying to start a music festival in Bandiagara as well. He said "Thank you for visiting my country!" and gave us a big smile. Craig told him that it was a bit different to watch him from a theater than from a dune, and he laughed. It was an excellent night and it brought back happy memories of our time in Mali.

If you like world music, try to catch Habib Koité and Bamada...you will not be disappointed!