Afel Bocoum, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Habib Koite | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | International | Chicago Reader

Afel Bocoum, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Habib Koite Tickets Available All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., March 12, 7 & 10 p.m. 2011

Extraordinary Malian guitarist and singer Afel Bocoum hasn't released an album in the U.S. since Nonesuch put out his beautiful debut, Alkibar, a dozen years ago. In 2000 he gave a mesmerizing performance at the Park West, opening for longtime mentor Ali Farka Toure—with whom he began playing in the late 60s, when he was only 13. Bocoum also wrote the song "Dofana" on the master's classic 1993 album The Source—one of Toure's greatest performances. In the years since, he's collaborated with former Blur singer Damon Albarn and others on the surprisingly good 2002 record Mali Music and released two terrific albums with his band Alkibar—both issued by French label Contre Jour and available here only as pricey imports. His obscurity in the U.S. is a shame, because he's the best of Toure's disciples and a worthy successor. On his third and most recent album, Tabital Pulaaku (2009), he and his band play the same sort of Mande blues Toure made famous, albeit with less improvisational flash and a more ensemble-oriented sound. Bocoum sings in a sort of nasal chant (he mixes the Songhai, Tamasheq, and Peul languages), working his vocals into a rich, simmering backdrop of acoustic guitars, electric bass, calabash and djembe percussion, the twangy four-string lute known as the njurkle, and the piercing single-string spike fiddle called the njarka. He performs with fellow Malian Habib Koite and Oliver Mtukudzi of Zimbabwe as part of a package tour sponsored by Putumayo Records; they'll share a set and a backing band, taking turns singing their own songs, sometimes all onstage together. —Peter Margasak

Price: $30, $28 members, $26 seniors and children

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