Wednesday 29 November 2023

Praise You

Namian Sidibé hails from Bamako, the capital of Mali, and released her debut self-titled album in May this year. 
Being on Sahel Sounds, a label that has frequently featured on fellow blogs par excellence 27 Leggies and Unthought Of, Though, Somehow and subsequently here in the past couple of years, I suspected that I was in for a treat and I wasn't disappointed.
Presented in the promo as "Another side of modern Malian praise songs", I've subsequently discovered that Namian Sidibé's first album is something of a departure for the artist herself.
Were I not an ageing, creaking sack of flesh and bones on an inexorable stumble to obsolescence, I might already be familiar with Namian as one of her 527,500 (and counting) followers on Tik Tok, regularly entertained by her singing and her rather wonderful wardrobe. But I am and I'm not, so it was my regular shopping visit to Sahel Sounds on Bandcamp Friday that introduced me to Namian Sidibé and her music. Or "another side" of it, at least.
The album is 8 songs and a little over half an hour, recorded at home and accompanied by her cousin Jules Diabaté on acoustic guitar. There's an earthy ambience throughout: you can feel the ambience of her environment, the sounds of traffic, people and the occasional mobile phone bleeding into the overall sound. Jules' playing is pitched to the required level of providing a simple framework for the songs, never showy and leaving plenty of room for Namian's voice.
Squinting at a grainy scan of the vinyl album's sleevenotes on Discogs - I bought the digital version - opening song Souna appears to be about the titular character, "a famous maker of fetish objects" who lived in Ségou. He also apparently practised "occult sciences" and helped people all over the world. This is one of many praise songs that have continued long after his death.

Djougouya Mangni is "a general warning not to attach evil to the good" and "to be good once and for all", which I can get with.

Whilst the basic stylings of the songs means the album skirts close to the borders of repetition at times, Namian Sidibé's vocal performance imbues each song with an individual character and drive. This is even more evident with the closing song, an a capella version of Môgôya, just Namian's voice and Bamako's background hum. 
Môgôya "describes the duplicitous, hypocritical nature of human beings" and "their propensity for destruction, harm and stubbornness". Not quite the lyrical theme that I was expecting, but it's a moving listen and a testament to Namian's voice that I've frequently pressed repeat on this song as a single listen just isn't enough.

Here's a version of Môgôya from 2020. Still fairly restrained in respect of the musical palette, but personally not a patch on the a capella version.
Last month, Namian Sidibé released the video for a new song, Furu. Trusting in a free online tool, I believe furu translates as marriage. The narrative of the video itself may also be a clue...

All good stuff, but there's something about Namian Sidibé's "unplugged' debut that resonated with me and has borne repeated listens since the summer. Bandcamp Friday is here again in a couple of days, when Sahel Sounds make their catalogue available as a name your price purchase. I'd recommend adding Namian Sidibé's album to your shopping cart.


  1. Excellent stuff. Surely a contender for Ernie's African Odyssey when he reaches Mali.

    1. Many thanks, CC. I don't envy Ernie when deciding on a Mali selection comes around, there's a lot to choose from!