With 'Les Bateaux' Malian bard Mamadou Kelly provides a perfect successor to his 2017 'Politiki' album. For 'Les Bateaux' Kelly worked together with an almost identical crew (Aly Magassa - guitar/backing vocals, Kande Sissoko - ngoni, Afo Guindo - gourd/drums and Adama Sidibe - balafon, on the Malinese side, and Jacob Silver - bass and Cindy Cashdollar - steel guitar, in the United States).
A new addition is the clarinet of David Rothenberg, giving songs like opener 'Woma Gara' or 'Nisi Tindi' a different vibe, and the ubiquitous sound of the single-string djourkel this time isn't Brehim 'Yoro' Cisse's, but that of Madou Diabate.
The title track refers to the 1970s, when Mali and the surrounding countries were hit by extreme drought and famine and the villagers on the banks of the Niger River were waiting for boats to bring in new supplies. In the song Mamadou quotes the names of those boats, but in the light of the current refugee crisis you can also listen to 'Les Bateaux' in a completely different way.
On 'Les Bateaux', Mamadou alternates fluently between Songhai, Bambara, Bobo and Fula, and tackles social issues like the growing instability in Mali (opener 'Woma Gara'), calls on Africans in the diaspora to return to the mother continent and help rebuild it ('Sinewe/l'Eglise De Tomina') and calls for African unity ('Nayes') because after all, we're all human ('Nisi Tindi').
In strong contrast to the rather traditional work on the rest of the album is the excellent club mix Los Angeles based English producer and DJ David Harrow made of 'Haira', a song in which Kelly calls to be thankful for what your parents have given you.
Jump in a boat and sail up the Niger River with Mamadou Kelly!