Under the leadership of guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, the Super Rail Band revolutionized Malian music in the 70s, incorporating electric instruments and nurturing future stars such as Salif Keita and Mory Kante, but by the mid-90s its pioneering fusions had grown stale, and younger Malians considered it a nostalgia act. So Tounkara began to strip away the slick horns and generic keyboards that bogged down the arrangements, creating a tauter sound that emphasized strong singing, circular grooves, and, most important, his own guitar. The new lineup hasn’t yet recorded, but Tounkara’s recently released solo album, Sigui (Indigo), an all-acoustic guitar showcase featuring many of Super Rail’s members, gives a taste of the new, spare MO. Tounkara’s improvisations cover a lot of stylistic ground–he can suggest the weeping quality of the harplike kora, unleash jazzy runs worthy of Django Reinhardt, or fleck his solos with Delta dirt. But despite his technical prowess, his playing never degenerates into empty displays of virtuosity. For this performance he’ll be joined by the creamy-voiced Super Rail singer Samba Sissoko, percussionist Bamba Dembele, bassist Samba Diabate, ngoni player Fode Salif Sacko, and vocalist Mariam Tounkara. Wednesday, November 6, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Benoit Peverelli.