Sorry Bamba has been making West African folk tracks for over 30 years, appealing to anyone who is interested in rich and cultural world music and the musical distinction of Mali artists. Sorry Bamba Volume One: 1970-1979 features tracks from a pivotal decade of Bamba’s career when he worked in many facets of art, including dance and traditional ensemble and led the Regional Orchestra of Mopti, his birth city.


Bamba grew up in the setting of cultural crossroads and diversity, which influenced his music. His African folk tunes transcend the borders of the expected and deliver their own sound. Bamba comes from a caste-based society that forbade him to play music while he was growing up, yet after being orphaned at a young age he turned to music for comfort and solace, teaching himself the craft of songwriting and dedicating his talents to the musical world.


The ten-track compilation of rare and unreleased tracks, reissued by Thrill Jockey, is overwhelming on first listen, especially for listeners new to the genre. There are layers of instruments and different musical styles woven through each track. Melodies loop for an eternity on some of the longer tracks (longest is 11 and a half minutes—hang in there). But after a few more listens, the style really sticks, and each song is distinguishable from the next. As cluttered as the album sounds by description, it actually benefits from its simplistic melodies that allow for multiple instruments to build off of.


The first track, “Yayoroba,” a popular song from 1974, sounds hauntingly beach-y as the simple guitar melody is layered with keyboard and bass as the song progresses. “Sayouwe,” further down the tracklist, embodies a pure funk beat featuring syncopated guitar and bass as well as a long-lasting synth solo. In turn, “Aisse,” a track towards the end of the compilation, takes the sound in a whole new direction, developing into a simple love song. It stands out as a smooth song featuring a single trumpet, bongo drums and light guitar. It is the perfect track to wind down from the rest of the album, an arrangement the Sorry Bamba was directly involved in with the creation of the compilation.


Those who are fans of Sidi Toure, Moussa Boumbia, or Gasper Lawal will most definitely find Sorry Bamba Volume One richly enjoyable and enticing. For those of us who aren’t extremely knowledgeable in the world music scene, Sorry Bamba’s collection of traditional Mali sounds echoed with hints of soul, latin jazz and even funk opens a door of exploration that leads to a new appreciation for African jazz/folk fusion.