Habib Koite is a singer/guitarist from Mali, who was born into a family of griots (a traditional musician/historians). Though he plays the acoustic guitar, Koite channels the sounds of West African stringed instruments (of the lute/guitar family) that he grew up with, as well as American (acoustic) blues. (Koite has toured and recorded with The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Bonnie Raitt.) Baro is his latest album, and with he further refines his synthesis of the modern and the traditional. This is not an album of World Beat/Afro-pop in the sense of a pop/dance-oriented fusion - Baro is almost entirely acoustic, and has a very personal, introspective (though definitely not boring or self-absorbed) disposition.
The songs consist of Koite’s mellow, quietly soulful, gently raspy voice and impeccably picked guitar, violin, balaphon (a vibes-like instrument), electric bass, drums, percussion and a hushed background chorus. His guitar at times recalls the country blues picking of Mississippi John Hurt and Rev. Gary Davis, as well as the modal picking of such purveyors of trad English folk guitar as Burt Jansch and John Renbourn. The music is unassuming and warmly spacious - Koite and company give the sounds plenty of room to breathe, with no overplaying, no clutter and no overt concessions to the "Western market." In a world as loony as this, it’s good to have albums like Baro to come home to.