The label Sahel Sounds releases Tounga, a collection of 10 years of solo productions by Babsy Konaté, ambassador of Gao Rap in northern Mali.
Always on the lookout for the slightest sound that rises from the desert, Chris Kirkley and his label Sahel Sounds shared in 2017 a compilation dedicated to the unique style that is Gao Rap. In the tracklist, Baba “Babsy” Konaté appeared twice, giving his version of the genre, a very local reinterpretation of Western rap with its own codes and rules. Located in northeastern Mali on the edge of the Sahara, Gao is the hometown of the legend Ali Farka Touré and his characteristic guitar playing. The city is also known for its Takamba rhythm specific to the Songhai Empire, often accompanied by electric guitar at baptisms or weddings, a musical tradition among others that inspired this Gao Rap or “Rap of the North” born in the early 90s.
With its heavily autotuned vocals, synthetic melodies and digital experimentation on the beat, this music, which was innovative at the time, began to circulate in mp3 format between cell phones with the advent of the internet and Bluetooth. Babsy Konaté is one of the most emblematic actors, he learned production from his brother Oumar Konaté before setting up a mobile studio in the center of Bamako, which became a hub for rappers wanting to record their flow. For the first time, this signature can be heard on a full album as Tounga is his first long format solo. This anthology sweeps through a decade of productions with lo-fi aesthetics, cosmic flights of fancy and addictive beats escaped from the sound libraries of Fruity Loops. Inspired by folk takamba, Kannywood film soundtracks from Northern Nigeria or ragga from Niamey in Niger, Babsy’s music is to be listened to for its unusual character, between docile rap and romantic ballads!
Tounga available via Sahel Sounds April 28th, 2022