From Niafunke, the heart of the Malian delta blues, guitar genius and subtle vocal stylist, Mamadou Kelly has been an integral part of two of the most famous groups in Malian music, Afel Bocoum’s Alkibar and also Ali Farka Toure’s backup band. He has played guitar and performed with these two greats on many of their tours and albums. He is the solid glue that holds the music together. Nothing short of a virtuoso on the acoustic guitar, Mamadou has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music of Mali. He represents a new sophistication in the sound of Niafunke.
Forced to flee Niafunke for Bamako after the occupation of northern Mali in 2012 and the imposition of sharia that banned music in his home town, Mamadou continues to develop his career. Having toured extensively as a side-man, he is now ready to step into the center spotlight and present his own music to the world. Supported by his brother, Hama, a respected genius on the calabash who is also heard on many recordings from Mali, and their longtime collaborator, monochord master Youro, their music represents the best and most captivating combination of traditional and contemporary West Africa imaginable. His vocals display a smooth sophistication demonstrating the high level of his art.
Mamadou can be heard on many recordings from Mali and appears in many videos. He continues to record in the studio and is putting together a new solo album for a 2013 release. His charm belies a determined professional. His song style is direct, deceptively simple and yet highly sophisticated. A rich historical background supports the composition and delivery. Without skipping a beat, Mamadou is able to bring a gracious hospitality to his music and to the concert stage.
In two of the videos below, Mamadou Kelly can be seen in the group backing Afel Bocoum. Do not let the size of the crowd in front of the festival stage fool you. It is early afternoon in rural Holland. The other video is a tribute by Alkibar to Ali Farka Toure.