Issa Bagayogo


Issa Bagayogo is from the country and his first and foremost a peasant. Born in 1961 in Korin, a small village 65 kilometres from Bougouni (home town of Nahawa Doumbia, the region’s best known singer), Issa used to hoe millet (daba in bambara) in a ten hectare field with the family of father and his father’s four wives. As the son of his father’s first wife, Issa lived along with fifteen of his children. In all, some twenty people lived in the field. On the musical front, Issa first learned to play the daro, a sort of rustic iron bell that used to be rung noisilly behind farm workers to goad them into action. At the age of 12 NULL he began learning the kamele n’goni (the young Malian’s guitar) as well as singing (a bit like everybody there’s always a kamele n’goni lying around somwhere). As people liked his voice and as his playing improved, Issa Bagayogo began to make a name for himself and in 1991 moved to Bamako in search of recording work. He arrived a flourish in a studio set up by two frenchmen who’d settled in Mali and who were looking for a good kamele n’goni player ; as a result Issa Bagayogo’s first songs were recorded, for no reward other than the pride of being able to return to the village with his photo on a cassette. He stayed three months, but, no longer so keen on hoeing millet, soon returned to the capital. A second cassette in 1993 had no more succes, and Issa became a trainee bus driver in Bamako, but taking a few too many pills to forget the disappointment of is failure led to his wife’ sleaving him and his dropping out altogether. Back in the village they called him mad and his mother was desperate. One morning he resolved to stop his « medecine » and return to music. He went back to the studio and met sound engineer Yves Wernert and ex Ali Farka Touré guitarist Moussa Koné, who suggested he work in a completely different way hitherto untried in Mali : mixing tradition with rhythmic samples. At first, Issa was afraid. He wasn’t used to working with drum machines and didn’t know quite where he was heading, but after many months of work, the cassette was released at the end of 1998 and was a hurge success in Mali, selling more than 15.000 copies (Issa wasn’t not surprised, finding it quite normal after all the work he’d put in). Now he is respected once more and his mother is delighted ; when he returns to the village they throw parties, and even his life wants to come back to live with him again.. Things are going much better and he’ll soon be able to leave the bus drivers and make a living solely from music. In march 1999 he was awarded the prize for Malian Song’s Brightest New hope by national television and radio. For the man they call « Techno Issa », it’s « the start of the beginning ».

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Issa Bagayogo

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