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Afropop Premiere: Habib Koite, “Balontan”

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Afropop is thrilled to be premiering “Balontan,” a new track by Habib Koité, from his new  album, Soô. Soô, which translates to “home” in English, promises to be an album that will celebrate the diversity of Koité’s Malian homeland, incorporating new elements into the style that he has developed over a long and vibrant career. While the tensions of war still linger in Mali, Koité brings a message of unity on Soô, singing in the languages of Malinke, Bambara, and Dogon, and performing in styles from all over the country.

Searching for a new sound, Koité brought in new musicians, after having worked with the same group, Bamada, for the past 22 years. The calabash replaces the drums of his previous records, and star kora and ngoni players Toumani Diabate and Bassekou Kouyate make appearances. Koité also plays the banjo for the first time here. Two years ago, he played with American banjo player Eric Bibb on Brothers in Bamako, and afterwards, Bibb gave Koité his banjo as a token of friendship.

“Balontan” is a song about soccer, which plays an important role in the social fabric of Mali. As Koité says, “Every afternoon after school, you see boys of different ages playing soccer in the dust. Parents come to watch and talk. It’s an important part of meeting where you learn to live together.” The song has a jaunty tone, with traditional Malian instruments mixing effortlessly with fast paced rap, a nod to the exiting mixture of contemporary styles with ancient heritage that has long defined Malian music. Check the track out below–and be sure to listen to the entire album–available tomorrow wherever music is sold!

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