Mali Music: 5 African Artists You Should Know About

Mali, the eighth-largest country in Africa, has a musical culture as old as time itself. Mali music is influenced predominantly by the ancient Mali Empire of the Mandinka, and just like most African countries, is ethnically diverse.

From Touareg music, Mande, Fula, Sumu and Sandiya, to Songhay and Wassoulou, we can essentially say that Mali is Africa’s centre for timeless music.

Let’s take you through a list of 5 African Artists that have helped us discover (and fall in love with) Malian music!

1. Amadou and Mariamamadou-mariam-mali-music-african-artists

Amadou (Amadou Bagayoko) and Mariam (Mariam Doumbia) are a musical duo from Mali. They are known as “the blind couple from Mali” who share a common interest in African music.

Their music combines traditional Mali sound with rock guitars, Syrian violins, Cuban trumpets, Egyptian ney, Colombian trombones, Indian tablas, and Dogon percussion. This is simply referred to as “Afro-blues.

Listen to Sabali, a song from the 2008 studio album Welcome To Mali:

2. Tinariwen

Formed in 1982, Tinariwen is a band of Tuareg-Berber musicians from the Sahara Desert region of Northern Mali. The musicians include Said Ag Ayad, Alhassane Ag Touhami, Eyadou Ag Leche, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Abdallah Ag Lamida, Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, and Bassa Walet Abdoumou.


The name, Tinariwen, means empty places, in connection to the vast desert regions of southern Sahara. Tinariwen blends ancient musical traditions with radical contemporary politics. Their music is an aural reflection of political repression in Mali and the struggle for self-determination among the Tuareg nomads.

The band’s fifth album Tassili, released in 2011, won the award for Best World Music Album at the 54th Grammy Awards.

Watch Toumast Tincha by Tinariwen, a song released in February 2014:

3. Ali Farka Touré

Though late, his music lives energetically on. Ali Farka Touré was a Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist, one of Africa’s globally renowned musicians. His music is an intersection of traditional Malian music and North American blues.


In 2002, he appeared with Black American blues and reggae performer Corey Harris, on the album, ‘Mississippi to Mali.’ Both appeared in Martin Scorsese’s 2003 documentary film “Feel Like Going Home.” This film traced the roots of blues back to its genesis in West Africa.

He usually sang in several African languages like Songhay, Fulfulde, Tamasheq, or Bambara.

Listen to Singya, a song off the album, Ali Farka Touré:

4. Rokia Traoré

Rokia Traoré is an award-winning Malian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Her first album Mouneïssa (Label Bleu), was released in late 1997 in Mali and 1998 in Europe. It was celebrated for its fresh Malian music traditions such as her use of the ngoni and the balafon.


In the autumn of 2012, Traoré joined Damon Albarn’s UK train tour Africa Express where she performed at concerts in Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, and London. These included pop-up performances at railway stations, schools, offices, and shopping centres.

Check out Ilé, a song off her 2016 album Né So:

5. Salif Keita

Salif Keita is an internationally recognized afro-pop singer and songwriter from Djoliba, Mali. With a global reputation as the “Golden Voice of Africa,” Salif introduced Mande-based Afro-pop to the world, adopting traditional garb and styles.


Keita’s music combines a traditional West African style with influences from both Europe and the Americas while maintaining an overall Islamic style. His musical instruments include balafon, djembe, guitar, kora, organ, saxophone, and synthesizer.

Watch Yamore by Salif Keita and Cape Verdean singer, Cesária Évora

Do you love Malian music? Which African Country would you like us to feature next?


Also, Have you visited our African concept store in Peckham yet?
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