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Bamako Sounds

The Afropolitan Ethics of Malian Music

2015
Author:

Ryan Thomas Skinner

Bamako Sounds

A rich ethnography of contemporary urban life in Mali and its world-renowned yet little understood popular music culture

Bamako Sounds tells the story of an African city, its people, their values, and their music. Centered on the music and musicians of Bamako, Mali’s booming capital city, this book draws on years of ethnographic research to reveal a community of artists whose lives and works evince a complex world shaped by urban culture, postcolonialism, musical expression, religious identity, and intellectual property.

Accessible and heartfelt, Bamako Sounds is itself largely musical in its interweaving of inventive musical criticism, scholarly analysis, and the author’s work as a musician.

AbdouMaliq Simone, Goldsmiths, University of London

Bamako Sounds tells the story of an African city, its people, their values, and their music. Centered on the music and musicians of Bamako, Mali’s booming capital city, this book reveals a community of artists whose lives and works evince a complex world shaped by urban culture, postcolonialism, musical expression, religious identity, and intellectual property.

Drawing on years of ethnographic research with classically trained players of the kora (a twenty-one-string West African harp) as well as more contemporary, hip-hop influenced musicians and producers, Ryan Thomas Skinner analyzes how Bamako artists balance social imperatives with personal interests and global imaginations. Whether performed live on stage, broadcast on the radio, or shared over the Internet, music is a privileged mode of expression that suffuses Bamako’s urban soundscape. It animates professional projects, communicates cultural values, pronounces public piety, resounds in the marketplace, and quite literally performs the nation. Music, the artists who make it, and the audiences who interpret it thus represent a crucial means of articulating and disseminating the ethics and aesthetics of a varied and vital Afropolitanism, in Bamako and beyond.

Bamako Sounds

Ryan Thomas Skinner is assistant professor of ethnomusicology at The Ohio State University. He is the author and illustrator of a children’s book, Sidikiba’s Kora Lesson, and an accomplished kora player.

Bamako Sounds

Accessible and heartfelt, Bamako Sounds is itself largely musical in its interweaving of inventive musical criticism, scholarly analysis, and the author’s work as a musician.

AbdouMaliq Simone, Goldsmiths, University of London

As African societies become ever more urbanized and ever more oriented toward the outside world, such a perspective has never been more welcome, or more necessary.

Bridges from Bamako

What makes this book one of the most important contributions to Africanist (musical) scholarship of the recent past is . . . that it has much else to offer of a more locally grounded, intellectually astute and at the same time culturally conscientious kind.

Journal of the International Library of African Music

Bamako Sounds

Contents

Introduction: A Sense of Urban Africa
1. Representing Bamako
2. Artistiya
3. Ethics and Aesthetics
4. A Pious Poetics of Place
5. Money Trouble
6. Afropolitan Patriotism
Conclusion: An Africanist’s Query
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Bamako Sounds

BamakoSounds.com
(for study guides and more) 

 

UMP blog: What is "Malian music"?

For many, to think of a place called “Mali” is to hear, first and foremost, its music. Mali may be a poor, landlocked, and sunbaked country in the West African Sahel, but its widely acclaimed music culture—with its bluesy resonances, danceable rhythms, and haunting melodies—has a way of mitigating, even beautifying such realities.