Today Thrill Jockey releases Koïma, the second stateside album by Malian guitarist Sidi Touré. (You might have seen him at last year’s World Music Festival, or at Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements in September.) Touré lives in the capital city of Bamako, in southwestern Mali. He was born in Gao, in the northeastern part of the country, where his sister still lives—he recorded his previous album, Sahel Folk, in her home. Less than two weeks ago, Tuareg rebels declared northeastern Mali an independent state called Azawad, and since then hundreds of thousands of people have fled the area to escape fighting and food shortages (aggravated by drought).

Touré recorded Koïma in a studio in Bamako with a five-piece group, which gives it a much richer, lusher sound than Sahel Folk, which is all duets. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is “Ni See Ay Ga Done,” an excellent demonstration of just how much a group of talented musicians can accomplish inside one chord. Melancholy but danceable, with a loping calabash beat (the bass notes are played with the heel of the hand, the taps and clicks with sticks or with rings worn on the thumb and fingers), it’s a beautiful lacework of dry, glittering strings and yearning vocals.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.