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Mylmo N’Sahel Raps the History of Mali

Mylmo (1)

“Here, everything happens in real time,” Mylmo N’Sahel notes, speaking to the open doors and uninterrupted visibility of life in his community. He is but one of many observers who have seen Mali develop and change first-hand over the past few decades.

In a new video, Mylmo does the seemingly impossible. In just over five minutes, he makes the case for a distinctly Malian form of rap, and tells the entire history of his country from ancient times up to the present. Opting for a more authentic Malian sound that reflects the country’s culture and musical legacy, Mylmo refuses the stuttering 808s and rattling bass that permeate today’s rap climate. Instead, he raps over calabash percussion and staccato melodies performed on a djeli ngoni, sounds that have served as the foundation of Malian music for centuries.

The video is part of a feature-length documentary produced by Afropop colleague and friend Paul Chandler, who lives in Bamako and runs a nonprofit called Instruments 4 Africa. While the film has yet to receive a definitive release date, Instruments 4 Africa has released a trove of interesting clips and vignettes on their YouTube page. The working title for the film is It Must Make Peace.

Mylmo’s name shouldn’t be unfamiliar to Afropop listeners. Our recent “Bamako Sounds” program features Mylmo as an exemplar of Mali’s expanding rap scene and a quintessential part of the Malian soundscape. Hear music from Mylmo and other acclaimed artists on “Bamako Sounds” here.

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