Album Review | World music

Habib Koité, ‘Soô’


Among the constellation of extraordinary musicians from Mali on the scene today, Habib Koité stands out for his unerring melodic instinct and the sense of intimacy that his songs carry. “Soô” upholds this standard, with interesting innovations. Straying briefly from his long-running band Bamada, Koité assembles a new unit. Fellow Mali icons Toumani Diabaté and Bassékou Kouyaté make a grand appearance on “Terere,” which extols musicianship and tradition. A rapper adds verve to “Balon Tan,” a song about street soccer. As for Koité, he switches between Mali’s languages with polyglot assurance, throwing in for good measure some Spanish and (slightly stilted) English. The songs speak of social issues, friendship, love, and nationhood: Mali is recovering from two years of political and military crisis, and “Soô,” which means “home,” is an elegant plea for unity. (Out Tuesday)


Essential“Bolo Mala”

Habib Koité plays Somerville Theatre March 7.

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