In 2017, the album Mogoya signalled the long-awaited return of Oumou Sangare after eight long years during which the Malian singer devoted herself to managing her numerous businesses (hotels, agriculture, pisciculture, cars…). With that album, recorded in Stockholm and Paris, the woman who once sold water on the streets of Bamako and has since become a global star and prosperous businesswoman reconnected with her audience, treading a fine line between her attachment to the traditional music of Wassoulou, the region of Mali which she hails from, and technological dislocation, gracing her fans with songs whose vital force was still intact and laying bare a heart that has remained as ardent as ever.
In return, Oumou suddenly found herself propelled into a new dimension, that of pop culture. Painted by the Congolese artist JP Mika for the front cover, remixed by Sampha, St Germain, Malik Djoudi and others for the follow-up Mogoya Remixed, and even sampled by Beyoncé (‘MOOD 4 EVA’ on The Lion King: The Gift album), never before had she appeared so far removed from the land of her birth – an impression that this new ‘unplugged’ version of Mogoya, proposed by Laurent Bizot of the Nø Førmat! label and magnificently undertaken by the artist, is designed to rectify. The acoustic apparel of the songs restores an authenticity that comes from committing to the initial take, without any safety-net or retouching. In other words, the truth of a rare moment that’s bonded to the emotional intensity emerging from it.
“I suggested to Oumou that she record this album, which is a kind of Mogoya Volume 3, after a concert she gave in London to celebrate 15 years of No Format. At that concert, for the first time ever, she had agreed to try out this acoustic approach, which is all about letting go,” says Laurent Bizot. “The space it created for her voice was really wonderful,”. The album was recorded in two days at the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse, in ‘live’ conditions, or rather those of an all-night vigil, without the comforts usually available in that kind of technical environment – no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones, each musician tuning into the ensemble whilst adding their own personal touch, their nuance. With this bare-bones egalitarian treatment, there emerged a group dynamic and a warmth that have become rare commodities in the music of today. Gathered around the incandescent voice of Oumou, in the same room as her, were the backing singers Emma Lamadji and Kandy Guira, the guitarist Guimba Kouyaté and the faithful Brahima ‘Benogo’ Diakité, Oumou’s cousin and virtuoso player of the kamele ngoni, who has been with her since Moussoulou, the epoch-defining debut cassette she released back in 1989, at the age of 21.
To this diminutive assemblage was added, on toy organ and celesta, Vincent Taurelle from the Parisian collective Albert, who made such an enormous contribution to the success of Mogoya and who, in this otherwise strictly African context, added an almost ‘exotic’ note to proceedings.