(Soundbite of Habib Koite song)


Habib Koite is one of Africa's most recognized musicians. His music blends the diverse musical traditions of his homeland, Mali, with rock, blues and jazz. After a six-year absence from the recording studio, Koite and his band Bamada are back with a new CD, "Afriki."

(Soundbite of Habib Koite song)

CHIDEYA: So, on this CD you have a very strong feeling about Africa, that it is not a place of just sorrow and hard times. How do you feel about the continent and the people of Africa?

Mr. HABIB KOITE (Musician): Africa is a continent wanting to change something. You know, everybody have to think what to do to give best future for the Africa, give hope to the young in Africa. And African young can have hope in Africa and make something in Africa and believe in Africa.

(Soundbite of Habib Koite song)

CHIDEYA: You've seen so much of the world. But why don't you take us to your childhood in Mali. And it's a country I've always wanted to visit. I've never been there, but I love the musical traditions and the long history of it being a nation with a lot of learning. What was it like for you growing up, and when did you start playing music?

Mr. KOITE: I grew up in Mali, normally, like, with mother and father, you know what I mean, a lot of brothers and sisters. We are all together in the same house and is a great time, because is really happiness and very hot. Hot relationship and then a lot of good grand, grand ambience.

CHIDEYA: Well, let me jump in and ask you, when did you start playing music? What did you start playing and how old were you?

Mr. KOITE: When I start music? Oh, I start music very young, you know. My mother sing and father played guitar and brothers sing. Everybody play guitar at home. And I'm born inside and I grow with this ambience, musical ambience to play guitar and flute, and yes. Now I'm 40. And after that, slowly grow up and have my own band. It's because I was lucky and chanced opportunity to have a lot of experience in music.

(Soundbite of Habib Koite song)

CHIDEYA: Some people call music the "universal language." So whether you speak French or English or any number of other languages, most people can understand the beauty of music.

Mr. KOITE: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: Does that sound true to you?

Mr. KOITE: Yes. Music is universal. You know, when the young come to me, I explain them, before I make my own music - like my Malian music I try to do, to create with Malian music - before that I play in a club for 10 years and I play each type of music: Rock, blues, jazz and everything. And I tell them, if you play rap or R&B and you are Malian, it's not a problem for me. But if you get experience, you have to put your identity.

(Soundbite of Habib Koite song)

CHIDEYA: So when you think about the music that you play, which has what some people call "pan-Malian" flavor - all these different types of music from Mali, the blues, the jazz - what would you call your music?

Mr. KOITE: My music name is inspired by traditional music. And one time I give it name, and the name is - was dansa dusu(ph). Dansa dusu is two words together to symbolize the different music of Mali, to play each type of music, because usually in Mali, the musicians play only the music from their own village or ethnic place. And I'm from west, and I try, through my experience, to play each type of music from Mali. But I take and I respect the identity of each type.

The identity is very important, because I want, when I play one song from the north, I want that the people from the north recognize the song. It is important for me they know two things: to connect the music and to feel who is this. And bring them to me. Bring people together like a connecting point.

CHIDEYA: Well, Habib, thank you so much.

Mr. KOITE: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Malian singer and guitarist Habib Koite. His new CD is called "Afriki." You can hear more of his in-studio performance at our website, nprnewsandnotes.org.

(Soundbite of Habib Koite song)

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