SAMBA OUSSOU, Tounkan, the stranger in a strange land

With every post I am torn between the desire to feature as broad a selection of music as possible, covering as many different styles and regions as I can, and my impatience to share my favorite recordings.  Today the pull of this particular Samba Oussou cassette got the better of me and we return to southern Mali.

This is one of those cassettes, and there aren't many of them, that I purchased every time I found it.  My first copy was bought in Nouakchott, my second in Bamako, with additional copies found in Ouagadougou and Abidjan.  The trail of these cassettes gives an indication of the geographical reach of Samba's audience.  He is the archetype of the modern West African roots troubadour, playing in maquis, theaters, and cabarets in all the towns along the Bamako-Sikasso-Abidjan axis, popular in towns like Bobo Dioulasso, Banfora, Niangoloko, Korhogo, and Seguela.

He was born Ousmane Doumbia in the town of Kolondieba, between Bougouni and Sikasso, smack in the middle of the Wassoulou heartland.  He has released six cassettes, that I know of, with the first coming out in 1997.  Most of his releases feature modern arrangements of Wassoulou music, nice stuff but nothing extraordinary.

Tounkan, is something else.  This recording features a half-hour recitation expressing the challenges of the Tounkan, the stranger in a strange land.  The difficulty of a life on the road and of trying to make your way in a foreign land.  Samba's recitation is accompanied by his kamele n'goni and Lamine Soumano's minimalist guitar.  Samba maintains a hypnotic groove for 28 minutes, then shifts gears for a final glorious three (you have to listen until the end!).  Tounkan was recorded in 2002 in Abidjan. 

Samba Oussou

In 2013 Samba released a followup to 'Tounkan', another long epic.  This is one is called Fotemogoban and tells the story [I think] of Samba's travails across Burkina and the Cote D'Ivoire. I don't think it is as punchy as Tounkan but i still enjoy it. (This recording along with all of Samba's other cassettes, except for Tounkan, are available from itunes.)


  1. Very nice! "Between Bougouni and Sikasso" is musically a vast area.


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