After eight years of immaculately curated releases, Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa label goes full circle with La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 1, his second reissue from legendary Malian vocalist Nahawa Doumbia, for the last four decades a true pillar of Wassoulou music. Her first album proper, La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 1 (recorded with her future husband N’Gou Bagayoko on acoustic guitar) invites us to revisit the salad years of Nahawa’s career in the early 80s. Well before she’d surrounded her powerfully joyful singing voice with bass, percussion, synths and electric guitar; swapping the quiet intimacy of vocal/guitar duo sets for the swinging punch of an electrified touring big band.
Although the Awesome Tapes From Africa label is probably best known for reissues from stylistically-slanted dancefloor friendly acts like hiplife auteur Ata Kak and ethio-jazz synth maestro Hailu Mergia, the label has a long history of releasing records which explore hypnotic rhythms and mood-altering tonalities through softer instrumentation. It’s a continuum which Hahawa’s early career folk music (folk in the folkloric sense) slides into with ease; while also providing a portrait of the mood of a West African great in the calm before the storm.
Listen to ‘Tou Dibile’ by Nahawa Doumbia above.
As she notes in La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 1’s liner notes, “When I think about it, first, I am reminded of how long ago it was. It’s one of the albums that I love most because it reminds me of my youth. I was so young and my voice was light and joyful. I still listen to some of those songs today. I am really proud of that first album because that’s where it all began. It shows me how far I’ve come in my personal and artistic life; it gives me the courage I need to keep going forward, and makes me appreciate all the years of dedication and hard work I put into my musical career.”
La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 1 is due for release on the 20th of September 2019 through Awesome Tapes From Africa (pre-order here).