Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that the indie rock world is exploring African sounds. Labels like Dead Oceans, Secretly Canadian and True Panther have also begun releasing new recordings by African musicians, those acts have begun playing American gigs, and African music regularly gets attention on the indie-minded Web sites of Pitchfork, Mojo and The Fader.
. . .
In terms of geography, the African groups that are beginning to be heard in the United States include a handful from countries like South Africa, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Rwanda. But the focal point of the labels’ interest is clearly Mali, a landlocked nation in sub-Saharan West Africa with a population of only 14.5 million, less than one-10th that of Nigeria. . . .
The country’s reputation as a musical powerhouse has become so strong that Blk Jks is contemplating crossing the continent from Johannesburg to record its next CD there; Jon Kertzer, an ethnomusicologist who oversees Sub Pop’s Next Ambiance label, even wrote a paper titled “Good Golly, Why Mali?”
One answer to that question might be the country’s long history as a crossroads for nomadic peoples, which has resulted in an unusual blend of cultures and musical styles: Bambara, Songhai, Mandinka, Arab and Tuareg, among others. It also helps that the music of Mali is based on a strong tradition of stringed instruments, like the harplike kora and the ngoni, believed to be an ancestor of the banjo, both of which sound reassuringly familiar to Western ears raised on guitar music.
See article at: NYT 30Jan11 — Indie Rock Embraces an African Invasion