May 8 Film Screening in SF: “The Last Song Before the War”

Here is a special event to raise funds for a very worthwhile organization, Mali Kalanso. This looks like a really great film, and it’s for a great cause.

Join us Thursday evening, May 8, for a special screening of

The Last Song Before the War
A documentary film about the remote, magical music festival held in the desert outside Timbuktu, Mali and the struggle to make it happen.

The Historic Balboa Theatre
3630 Balboa Street
San Francisco, CA

Doors open 6:30   Screening at 7:00

Complimentary drinks & popcorn, pop-up bazaar, surprises and fundraising

Tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets

$50 General Admission, $75 Reserved Seating and $125 VIP includes special sneak preview reception following the screening at Marla Bakery (across the street from the theatre).

We look forward to sharing our latest news and the music of Mali with you.

Music from Mali in April

There is no excuse not to get out and see some great music this month. Of note is a pair of performances at the California Institute of Integral Studies: Mali Fest Weekend featuring Fatoumata Diawara and Tinariwen at the Nourse Theater. It’s a chance to celebrate the music of Mali while bringing attention to the tension in that country.

Fatoumata is an exciting, young singer-songwriter who has fought the cultural prejudice faced by women throughout Africa. I saw her play Zellerbach last year and she puts on a great show. And Tinariwen is the Grammy-winning roots and rock rebels from the Sahara. You can attend either show individually or buy tickets for the weekend and save 20%.

Fatoumata Diawara, Friday, April 18 at 8:00PM
Tinariwen, Saturday, April 19 at 8:00PM

Nourse Theatre, 275 Hayes St., San Francisco

Music in Mali: Life is Hard, Music is Good

OK, I think they need to come up with a better title, but the California-based team at Kanaga System Krush is putting together a musical documentary that looks amazing. Coming out sometime in 2014?

Music in Mali includes visual snippets from artists, including the Grammy nominated Bassekou Kouyate, Djeli Mady Tounkara, Grammy award winning Toumani Diabate, his brother Madou Sidiki Diabate, and many more. The film also features some the the last visual recordings of Legendary Malian musicians like Lobi Traoré, Zani Diabate, and Mangala Camara.

Voice of the Arab Spring

Here’s an incredible clip of Tunisian folk singer Emel Mathlouthi singing a capella during a downtown Tunis Candle Vigil in January 2011. Powerful stuff.

Thanks to Sue Leigh Waugh for her comment on Amazon for sending me in search of this clip:

Among the iconic images to emerge from the “Arab Spring” was a YouTube video of a stylish young Tunisian woman singing a capella, surrounded by chanting demonstrators during the final weeks of President Ben Ali’s regime. The singer was Emel Mathlouthi and in the video she sings her signature song, “Kelmti Horra” (My Word is Free).

Check Out Meklit Hadero’s “Nile Project”

Local phenom Meklit Hadero has just released a live album called “The Nile Project,” and it is fantastic.

In January 2013, the Nile Project brought together 18 musicians from Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt to experiment with a collaborative creative process that would last 10 days. Each musician brought 2 songs. In the morning, we taught one another our respective musical languages. In the afternoon, we played musical chairs in duos, trios, and quartets. On the 5th day, we played our songs for one another. The puzzle was all there. Four days later, we had our first live performance at the Aswan Cultural Palace, and it rocked! Everything was recorded. After a few months in the mixing and mastering process, the Nile Project live album is here!

Click here to buy the album on CD Baby.

Music 4 Mali – March 1 in SF

This looks like a great event, to support humanitarian efforts in Mali, which has been undergoing a humanitarian crisis since 2012. More information at, or on Facebook.

Come out and Dance for a Cause!!!

  • Mama Crow (Soulful Acoustic Rhythmps)
  • DJ Marco (Lil Baobab, Afrobeats)
  • Say Bobby (African Fusion Dance Music)
  • Rhythm Village (West African Celebration)
  • Yacine Badian Kouyate (Malian Roots)
  • Orpheus Ensemble (World and Spiritual Groove Music)
  • Heather White (Singer Songwriter, former Mali Peace Corps)
  • and other special guests

plus West African cuisine and talks on the history, culture, and current situation in Mali.

  • 7:30 – doors open for food and talks
  • 9:00 – Music to Dance to Until We Drop!

$15- $50 suggested donation, no one turned away for lack of funds.  If you would like to volunteer, write to

We’ll also be having a SILENT AUCTION.  If you would like to donate anything to the silent auction (art work, crafts, services, etc), write to

at A Funky Warehouse in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco

1800 Illinois Street near the corner of Marin St

Proceeds from the event go to Doctors Without Borders in Mali

Lots of Great Shows in 2013!

Wow, there are lots of great shows coming up in the coming weeks and months. Keep checking the calendar for more great shows!

  • Sat Jan 26, Karamo Susso at La Peña in Berkeley – La Pena Cultural Center 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA
  • Wed Jan 30, Vusi Mahlasela at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall
  • Thu Jan 31, Spirit of West Africa with Karamo Susso at Ashkenaz
  • Sat Feb 2, Zulu Spear at Ashkenaz, Berkeley
  • Sun Feb 3, Vieux Farka Toure at Yoshi’s SF
  • Fri Feb 8, Lagos Roots Ensemble at Ashkenaz in Berkeley
  • Fri Feb 15, Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Toubab Krewe at The Independent, San Francisco
  • Sat Feb 16, Habib Koité and Eric Bibb at the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
  • Fri Mar 15, Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley
  • Sat Mar 30, Afropop Spectacular with Oliver Mtukudzi and Fatoumata Diawara at Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley, CA

Ethiopian Art, Music, and Culture on January 12 in SF

I am always on the lookout for live Ethiopian music in the Bay Area, which seems a relative rarity, despite the large community of Ethiopians living here. I’ve been hooked on the stuff since listening to the Ethiopiques albums over the last few years.

On January 12, 2013, the Ethiopian Arts Forum is sponsoring an opening for an art exhibit at the Jazz Heritage Center in San Francisco. Not to be missed!

Concerts for December

Get out and hear some music this month. A couple local favorites have upcoming gigs.

Baba Babá Ken Okulolo and the Afro-Groove Connexion play Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center in Berkeley this Saturday, December 8 at 9 pm. Really, is there a better place in the Bay Area to shake your booty?

Baba Ken

Local African guitar favorite Babá Ken Okulolo

On Wednesday, December Babá Ken Okulolo is back with his West African Highlife Band to play a free noon-time outdoor concert at Oakland City Center, near 13th and Broadway. It’s a Kwanzaa celebration!

Karamo Susso brings his 21-stringed kora and his band to the Aubergine After Dark in Sebastapol for a 6 pm show on Sunday, December 16.

In January, two huge international starts are in town for concerts: Nigeria’s Femi Kuti and South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela. See the calendar for info.