Mamadou Kelly comes from Goundam near Timbuktu, the heart of the Niger River inner delta. Having played alongside its masters, Kelly and his group Ban Kai Na bring a new sophistication to the desert blues genre.
With his 2013 album, Adibar (CLE007), Mamadou Kelly stepped onto the international stage presenting his own repertoire as soloist and band leader. He received accolades when he toured North America performing at major festivals and concert halls while recording this album. His band members are old friends: Alpha “Hama” Sankare, revered genius on calabash and longtime collaborator; master of the monochord djourkel, Brehima “Youro” Cisse; backed up by the young, gifted bassist, Baba Traore.
For his new album, DJAMILA, Mamadou Kelly wanted to expand the sound and invited western musicians to contribute to the groove. Calling in some Woodstock NY neighbors, record producer Chris Nolan invited Pete Levin on keyboards, Duke McVinnie on electric guitars, and Jane Scaprantoni on cello to the mix. Also on hand at the sessions was Leila Gobi, prominent vocalist from Menaka in Northern Mali, who provides chorus backup on three of the tracks.
Kelly’s smooth vocals and deceptively effortless guitar playing quickly charm his audiences. Steeped in rich historical background, his lyrical style combined with Ban Kai Na’s virtuoso delivery makes it all sound so easy. Yet at the time of these recordings they all had just witnessed severe political unrest and social violence in Mali. It was a real presence during the sessions. You can hear it, the real source of the blues.