Album Review: BKO – Mali Foli Coura [BUDA Musique; November 2017]

Modern five-piece BKO return with their second album Mali Foli Coura released on Buda Musique records. Hailing from Mali, BKO combines fresh and zesty experimental sounds while remaining faithful to their African heritage, creating a unique, eclectic, electric, and danceable sound.

After exhaustive tours stretching across Europe, China, and Africa, BKO returned home with the image of contemporary innovators in native Mali. By combining aggressive griot guitar with the delicate and fragile tones of a Bambara hunter’s lute – a feature previously untested in the West African musical climate – BKO have created a truly original sound.

The attempt to combine two contrasting styles, the distinct West African roots sound, coupled with an urban, contemporary ‘Western’ sound, is a shining example of how bold creativity can still produce an exciting and new sound in the 21st Century.

What makes Mali Foli Coura stand out from other world music artists is the jangling guitar layered above the encapsulating and hypnotic percussion sections. 

Another unexpected but pleasant addition was the warmth and delivery of the vocals. Listening as a born and bred Londoner, the soft, crooning tones of the voice, sang in a French dialect, added an extremely attractive and seductive edge. 

Stand out track “Mon Amour” features a cameo appearance from the virtuosic, well-known musician Mathieu Boogaerts.

BKO attempt to take the listener on an exotic subterranean journey using signposts and symbols in a mythical alternative world. At their best, BKO achieve this feat with effortless breeze, at other points, however, some of the experimentalism eclipses musicianship and sounds erratic and random.

Mali Foli Coura is an energetic and brave record. Fans of world music should enjoy the transformative rollercoaster journey offered by BKO.