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Issa Bagayogo

Issa 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 Afro-techno 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
Topics covered 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 same year.