Issa Bagayogo Biography

1961, Korin, Mali. Converging the traditional sounds of griot and western dance music, Bagayogo has been nicknamed ‘Techno Issa’ in his home country. The singer-songwriter began singing and playing the kamelégoni (a six-stringed harp, traditionally associated with hunters in the Wassoulou region) and the daro (a metal bell) while working on the family farm. Becoming well known locally, Bagayogo briefly relocated to the capital Bamako where he recorded a cassette of music before returning home to his family. Two years later, he ventured back to the capital where he became an apprentice bus driver and recorded more music. Becoming increasingly destitute and depressed, however, Bagayogo turned to drink and separated from his wife.

Fortuitously, the musician hooked up with guitarist Moussa Koné and French engineer Yves Wernert. With his new collaborators, Bagayogo began mixing his traditional music with digital sounds at the state-of-the-art Studio Bogolan, a studio partially funded by legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré. The collaborators drew on this hybrid of roots-based acoustic textures, dub and electronic dance music for 1998’s Sya, which became a hit in Bagayogo’s home country. As if to suggest he is aware of the problems of corrupting or diluting a traditional music, on ‘Tounga’ (from his second album Timbuktu), Bagayogo sings about fighting to maintain artistic and cultural identity in foreign countries. For the most part, however, Bagayogo songs revolve around traditional Malian themes such as community, marriage and death. ‘Sisi’ is about drug abuse in Mali, while the heavily processed ‘Dambalou’ is a song of praise for the warriors who built the Manding Empire. While Bagayogo even goes as far as to incorporate Brazilian dance rhythms and up-tempo electronica on Timbuktu, his unexpected fusions are subtle and effective, seeming organic rather than the musician’s equivalent of genetic modification. Bagayogo notably performed at WOMAD Reading in 2002.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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