Various artists


Perhaps it’s the struggle of a landlocked people engulfed by Saharan shifting sands that makes Malian music as entrancing as it is: hypnotic, bittersweet rhythms of primarily acoustic instruments intertwined with gorgeous, poignant voices, soaring and hushed. It’s that mystical sense of dynamics that resonates so strongly with Western ears. The connection between Mali and early Southern American blues is direct and unmistakable. An earlier Putamayo release made the slam-dunk case. Called Mali to Memphis, it snaked between John Lee Hooker and Habibe Koite, between Guy Davis and Boubacar Traore. Those two Malians are on this amazing compilation and are joined by nine others, including Tinariwen, the nomadic Tamashek tribesmen who fought the Malian government for their people’s rights with both rifles and electric guitars.