Tag Archives: gao

gao rap

via facebook GAO RAP

via facebook GAO RAP

Konate Baba

Digging at the mp3 market in Bamako, I had the vendor send me over a folder entitled GAO RAP. Containing, of course, what the title says – Rap music from the Northern Mali city of Gao. Which in itself would not be so remarkable if it wasn’t for what rap music from Gao sounds like. Which is nothing else in the world.

Rap in foreign languages leaves much to the imagination, and the unfamiliar ear gravitates towards the production over the lyrical content. There is a heavy use of autotune, and a certain reverbed synth that carries the melody. All of the productions tend to have little flourishes, the light hand of fruity loops. It’s low-fi in a way that is already a thing of the past, a signature of the early 2000s, PC based music.

Gao lies in what is essentially the extreme North East of Mali. You can go no further without leaving the asphalt behind. At a crossroads (both culturally and literally), Gao accumulates a little from every side. Musical influence is equally part high energy Balani Bamako Hip Hop and the sweet and cheesy autotune of Hausa pop music, combined with fascinating rhythms of that homegrown sort, with sudden changes that reflect the intermittent improvised breakdowns at the heart of takamba.

As a genre, GAO RAP may end here – at the title of an mp3 or the folder of a music collector at Bamako’s music market. It’s not something considered, certainly not abroad, but neither in Mali. It’s hardly a genre, or even a subculture – and it may not exist for long enough for such bold words. But it is a localized experimentation and a sound inseparable from a place and time. It exists, and it sounds like Gao.

the reuse of old objects

Radio Hanna Broadcast

Radio Hanna is housed in an old dilapidated cinema in Gao, Mali. Vestiges of the movie theater remain: rusted seats on the balcony and a giant projection screen — flanked by piles of wood, wandering goats, and a woman pounding a mortar and pestle. Families rent the various rooms in what otherwise seems to be a massive brick courtyard. Radio Hanna’s office is up some crumbling stairs in the former projection booth.

Takamba is the music of Gao. Nowhere else does the droning terhardent and clash of the calabash dominate the frequencies. Muffled by the hiss of old cassettes and the crackle of radio, the music is interspersed with the layering of vocal shout outs — the original griot shouting praises for long vanished patrons, and Radio Hanna’s MC with his secondary announcements layered on top of the old takamba, another message relayed on an old vehicle.