With a musical lineage that can be traced back to the wealthy West African empire founded by Sundiata Keita in the 13th century, Malian griot Bassekou Kouyate is the latest in a long line of singers and storytellers. While he got his start playing the traditional four-stringed lute called a ngoni before he was even in his teens, Kouyate has developed a decidedly modern sound by adding strings to the instrument and running it through guitar effect pedals.
His eight-piece ensemble Ngoni Ba features the powerful vocals of his Kouyate’s wife Amy Sacko and a backing band playing percussion and additional ngoni that bring modern energy to an ancient sound with their intricate string-and-percussion interplay and lushly harmonized vocals. One of the most important African musicians in his generation, Kouyate has worked with pop giants as U2 and Carlos Santana in addition to playing an essential role on recordings by African legends including Toumani Diabaté, Ali Farka Touré, Vieux Farka Touré and Youssou N’Dour. He comes to the SFJAZZ Center to play the intense songs found on his latest album Jama ko, a collection of tunes recorded during the recent political turmoil in his homeland that inspired Kouyate’s most fiery effort yet.
Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m. $25-$45 (sold out)
SFJAZZ Center Miner Auditorium