Back in 2006 landed Yelema, Mamani Keita’s follow-up to her debut album Electro Bamako which had put the Malian singer on the radar of global musical fusion lovers. As its title implied (“yelema” means “change” in Bambara, Mali’s lingua franca), Keita continued her exploration in cultural hybridisation, only with Nicolas Repac as the producer/artistic director in lieu of Marc Minelli. Under Repac’s visionary guidance, Keita’s music became deeper and more experimental, and a lot more original as a result.
Since its original release, Yelema has become a landmark album not only for Keita and Repac, but also for the ever excellent No Format label, home to fellow Malian musicians Oumou Sangare and Ballaké Sissoko but also the ever excellent rapper Rocé: a true haven for artists evolving on the crossroads between modernity and tradition. No format indeed but rather a desire to telescope all kinds of styles, while always sounding deeply authentic.
From Lado to the deep and hypnotic ‘Kedide’ to ‘Yelema’, the album is a deep and immersive journey that wanders where the mood takes it, at once both playful and poetic, and transcended by the inimitable voice of Mamani Keita. At the heart of the album sits ‘Tamala’, a masterful fusion of modern Afro psychedelia, which sees a special appearance by keyboard wizard Jean-Philippe Rykiel (who also collaborated with Youssou N’Dour and Salif Keita as well as Maãlem Hamid El Kasri). Cosmic hybrid music of the highest order, recently reissued on vinyl for the first time.