About 2 minutes into the video, you’ll recognize the melody from Ahmed’s song Baro, featured on Akwaaba wo Africa.
Ahmed grew up in the griot tradition of poetry and music. A talented multi-instrumentist, he has played the flute, balafon (African xylophone), kora and hand drums for numerous Malian greats, including Toumani Diabaté and Vieux Farka Touré. Today he is still touring with them but also focusing on his own projects, including Riff Mandingue which will come out on Akwaaba.
It gets real hot in Bamako, so a lot of the social life happens at night. Friends like to meet after dinner for baro, to chat, often over shots of attaya. Attaya is a tea patiently prepared from green tea, and served in series of three small shot glasses, bitter, strong then sweet. It’s prepared in a pot right on top of a small pyramide of coals. Malians often offered me a glass of attaya, the inside joke being that a toubab is served the third brew, the sweetest and least bitter – the same usually served to children!
I was able to make my way to the full three rounds, complete with discussions flowing from French to Bambara and back, tales of musicians on the road, of cousins in Paris, and one name that came back often was… Obama!