'Harouna Samake. Groovy & uplifting Kamale Blues from Mali .One of Mali's most versatile and exciting bands'
Simon Broughton, Songlines Magazine
HAROUNA SAMAKE 'KAMALE BLUES'
A Contemporary mix of Groovy Jazz, Mali Blues & Wassoulou Traditions
Harouna Samake, for 2 decades the Kamale N’goni player for legendary Malian musician Salif Keita, released his anticipated first solo album, Kamale Blues, in August, 2018.
Recognised as Mali’s foremost Kamale N’goni player, Harouna has a long history of award winning musical collaborations. He arranged and recorded on five of Salif Keita’s albums and has recorded on more than 50 albums with artists including Blick Bassy, Djessou Mory Kanté, Etienne Mbappé, Bassekou Kouyate, the late Sali Sidibé and Toumani Diabate, to name a few.
On 'Kamale Blues' Harouna employs his talents to reflect upon issues present in the world around him. His lyrics are the foundation for this conceptual approach, referencing themes of immigration, education, wealth & inequality, gender relations, and human rights. Sung mostly in his native Bambara, with some English and French phrasing, Harouna’s album mixes various genres – from Wassoulou, Mali Blues, Manding styles, to jazz and blues. His sound is unique, groovy and full of lawyers of traditional Malian arrangements with contemporary ideas and strong solos. The chorus are song with the soft angelic vocal of his wife, Assetou Diakite, that contrasts Harouna's soft, yet somewhat 'raw' voice.
Harouna's career as a Kamale N’goni master started from humble beginnings. He fell in love with the instrument at the age of eight when he first witnessed a performer play in his small village in Mali. He collected a calabash, a branch of wood and found some strings. With help of a master, who gave him an old antilope skin, he constructed his first Kamale N’goni by hand. He was asked to pay the skin with grass for the old matras of the master. Harouna's flock of friends ran to the fields to collect grass, and helped their popular friend.
The family could only afford send Harouna's brother to school, and this became the talented musicians blessing: Harouna now perfected his musicianship while working on his family’s arable lands.
At the age of ten, he was hired to play at weddings and other events in the villages, and by the age of 13, the legendary Wassoulou singer Sali Sidibé, hired him for her group, and they soon recorded and started touring internationally. The collaboration lasted a lifetime; latest album she released was 'Wale Gnouma Don' from 2017.
In 2001, Harouna was going on a tour to France, but faith would have it that his passport dropped in a deep hole while standing in line at the embassy. Even the staff helping trying to rescue it, the papers had disappeared. It was too late for tour, so he got cancelled. Two days later, his phone rang. It was Salif Keita. Salif had heard about his talent and asked him to drop by for a tester. Harouna got hired on the spot. The collaboration became a long lasting relationship, and Harouna has since been touring the world with the superstar of Mali, for almost two decades.
Over the subsequent years, Harouna Samake's style and abilities have impressed many critics and internationally acclaimed artists. Bonnie Raitt gave him his first electric guitar as a thank you, after jamming at Festival au Dessert, and Bella Flick, recorded 2 albums. Later he also recorded 2 albums with jazz guitarist Leni Stern.
After 20 years of touring internationally with Salif Keita, Harouna shows his exceptional talents as a musician, composer, arranger and producer to marvel a whole new global audience of listeners through his exquisite full-length album.
The album is produced by Harouna Samake & Carolina Vallejo in Bamako, recorded by Yaya Diarra, and mixed by Carolina Vallejo & Richard Plougmann in Copenhagen. It was released by One World Records in August 2018. The press was thrilled, 'Kamale Blues' went straight to the top of international charts and won several international Awards & Nominations:
TOP 16 Best Albums of 2018, Forbes Afrique
Nominated for Afrima Awards 2018
TOP 40 Transglobal Worldmusic Charts Sept, Oct, Nov, December 2018
The Academia Award Gold Medal 'Best World Music Album' Oct 2018
The International Song Competition 2018, 3rd Prize (given in May 2019)
TOP 10 Mixed World Music 2018
REVIEWS Forbes Afrique, Lust For Life, Heaven, Kayafm, Mixed World Music, Jassizm, Songlines, Süddeutche Zeitung and Afropop Worldwide.
'Harouna Samake is known as a Malian grandmaster on the kamale n’goni, the harp-like instrument from the Wassoulou area in Mali. For years he has been one of the driving forces in Salif Keita’s band. With Kamale Blues the time is ripe to show what he is capable of under his own flag and that results in an impressive African album' – Heaven
'He accompanied his country fellow Salif Keita on his international tours, and can be heard on more than fifty albums […] Samake is now standing out of the shadow with his first solo album […] Samake proves here as a great talent that we will undoubtedly hear a lot from in the coming years' ★★★★★ – Lust for Life
'That virtuosity is best expressed on this first solo album in the instrumental 'Dissan Konon', but the songs are almost all true gems' - Dani Heyvaert, Rootstime
HAROUNA SAMAKE DISCOGRAPHY (Selected)
Sali Sidibe - Wassoulou Foli, Stern's Africa 1993
Salif Keita - Moufou, Universal Music Jazz Africa 2002
Madan Various - Verve Today 2002
Laban (as Harouna Samaké) Verve Records, Universal Music 2002
Salif Keita - M'Baemba Universal Music Jazz France, EmArcy 2005
Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac - Yelema, No Format, Universal Music France 2006
Kamoukie Various, Verve Today 2006 (Verve Records, Universal Music Group)
Leni Stern - Alu Maye Leni Stern Recordings 2007
Leni Stern - Africa, Leni Stern Recordings 2007
Etienne Mbappe - Su La Take, O+ Evolution 2008
Salif Keita - La Diference, Universal Music Jazz Africa 2009
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - I Speak Fula, Sub Pop 2009
D'Gary Jam Béla Fleck - Throw Down Your Heart (Tales From The Acoustic Planet Vol. 3 Africa Sessions) Rounder Records 2009
Horoscope, La Chanson Du Dimanche - Plante Un Arbre, La Pêche Production 2009
Blick Bassy - Léman (CD, Album, Dig) World Connection 2009
Andra Kouyaté & Mah Bara Soumano, Gueleya - 2Fanga, Studio Mali 2009
Leni Stern - Sa Belle Belle Ba 2010
Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac -Gagner L'argent Français, No Format, Universal Music Jazz France 2011
Blick Bassy - Hongo Calling, World Connection, World Connection 2011
Leni Stern - Sabani, Leni Stern Recordings 2011
Salif Keita - Talé, Cartell Music, Universal Music France, EmArcy 2012
Zani Diabaté & Les Héritiers - Tientalaw, Stern's Music 2012
Musow - For Our Women, Outhere Records 2012
Take It On The Chin and 1 more, Dirtmusic - Troubles 2013
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba - Jama Ko, Out Here Records 2013
Moussa Diallo - Black Night Blues Pour Les Émigrés, Miniyamba, Tiger Music, 2013
Djessou Mory Kanté - River Strings – Maninka Guitar, Stern's Africa 2014
Yirimadjo (as Harouna Samaké) Trio Da Kali - Trio Da Kali, World Circuit 2015
Sali Sidibe - Wale Gnouma Don (Cass) Kabako Soundi 2017
Harouna Samake - Kamale Blues, One World Records 2018
Salif Keita - Un otre blanc, Naïve Records 2018
Harouna Samake with Sali Sidibe (1960-2019), at her house in Lafiabougou, Bamako, 1989 Photo Lucy Duran