Bagayogo has been nicknamed Techno-Issa in his home country
of Mali and, as his fame spreads, in other parts of the world
too. Techno music is in stark contrast to Issa's rural background
30 miles from the nearest town in southern Mali. While working
on the family farm he started singing and played traditional
instruments: a bell called the daro and also a six-stringed
harp called kamele n'goni (the three-stringed n'goni is more
of a spiritual instrument, so Issa plays the six-stringed one
that is better for secular music).
After becoming well known locally, Issa
decided to go to the capital, Bamako, in 1991. There he got
the chance to use his skills at playing kamele n'goni in a studio
belonging to two Frenchmen and the result was a cassette. Bagayogo
went back to his family home after only three months. Two years
later he returned to Bamako, recorded another cassette and became
an apprentice bus driver. The cassettes brought in no money
and Issa became depressed, turned to drink and his wife left
him. After a while Issa returned to his music and at a studio
he met Yves Wernert, a French engineer, and guitarist Moussa
Kone. They began mixing traditional music with techno drum programming,
something quite new to
Issa. The result became known as
and it certainly did the trick because their first CD, Sya,
released in 1998, was a huge success in Mali. As a consequence
in 1999 Bagayogo won an award
as Brightest New Hope. The trio
and their accompanying band with backing vocalists went on to
record their second CD, the international hit Timbuktu.
Issa followed that withTassoumakan ('Voice of Fire')
in 2004 and his latest, Mali Koura in 2008. Mali
Koura is more of a truly blended jazzy Afro-European hybrid
and it's unique because no part
was recorded in a studio - the tracks were simply recorded in
houses in Bamako and France. Once again Yves Wernert is the
producer and you can significantly hear flute, piano and horns.
All four of
Issa's CDs are on
Six Degrees Records.
by the lyrics include unity, going abroad, drugs and death.
Listen to Issa's music and you'll feel transported by the medium
of rootsy blues. Now Issa has a well established style in which
ancient Malian rhythms meet and combine with modern dance music.
His gritty voice leads his backing vocalists in hypnotic call-and-response.
Techno-Issa has toured internationally - he and his band appeared
at WOMAD Reading in 2002 (see photo above) and went on to enchant
audiences as support for Femi Kuti's UK tour in November the