Today Thrill Jockey releases Koïma, the second stateside album by Malian guitarist Sidi Touré. (You might have seen him at last year's World Music Festival, or at Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements in September.) Touré lives in the capital city of Bamako, in southwestern Mali. He was born in Gao, in the northeastern part of the country, where his sister still lives—he recorded his previous album, Sahel Folk, in her home. Less than two weeks ago, Tuareg rebels declared northeastern Mali an independent state called Azawad, and since then hundreds of thousands of people have fled the area to escape fighting and food shortages (aggravated by drought).
Touré recorded Koïma in a studio in Bamako with a five-piece group, which gives it a much richer, lusher sound than Sahel Folk, which is all duets. Today's 12 O'Clock Track is "Ni See Ay Ga Done," an excellent demonstration of just how much a group of talented musicians can accomplish inside one chord. Melancholy but danceable, with a loping calabash beat (the bass notes are played with the heel of the hand, the taps and clicks with sticks or with rings worn on the thumb and fingers), it's a beautiful lacework of dry, glittering strings and yearning vocals.