That’s how his producer Christian Musset describes the art of Boubacar Traore, the 76 years young self-taught master guitarist and singer from Mali. It’s not that he wasn’t influenced by the structured blues of the Deep South and the likes of Blind Willie McTell and Robert Johnson. But more so, he brought the blues to a new level by fusing it with French Creole sounds and his own authentic musical heritage, indigenous to the culture of the country of his birth. It’s his music and it’s coming straight from his heart and blood.
He’s essentially a storyteller, his songs are tales about his love for life, melancholic and wistful but the lyrics are often soaked with joy and a sly sense of humor. It’s precisely that emotional relief that seems to be an essential part of this giant of world music. Initially, Bouba was a hit early in his career on the airwaves in Mali with the freedom-proclaiming «Mali Twist» which expressed desires and hopes for a brighter future. That and sporting his blouson noir earned him comparisons to Chuck Berry and even James Brown. But after a military coup in 1968 he ran afoul of a new repressive regime and lost his wife to childbirth which broke his heart, he says. This son of the desert relocated to Paris and the years of struggle there he remembers well: «You can be a king at home but when you’re a migrant you’re a nobody.» Yet during those hard-knock times, his music kept him going and he celebrated a sensational comeback in 1990 with his first album «Mariama». With it, he sure made up for lost time.
Tonight he’ll perform with his long-time harmonica Vincent Bucher and percussionist Babah Kone. His latest album is «Dounia Tabolo» (2017). It’s a trip, it was recorded in Louisiana with some of the finest Delta blues and Creole Musicians the lively scene produces. On this disc, he plays his guitar in the manner of the Kora, The West African 21-string-lute, exclusive to that region of the Black Continent. This mastery allows him to play two melodies simultaneously in a complex and mindblowing expression of his superb technique, leaving you slackjawed.
Boubacar Traore, live at El Lokal. The soul of the Sahara hovers over the Mississihl.