Boubacar Traore

Boubacar Traore

 Bamako, Bamako, MLI
BandWorldBlues

In a life marked by forgetfulness and resurrection, despair and consolation, the malian Boubacar Traore, alias "KarKar", has created a rich blues with eased sadness.

Biography

Boubacar Traoré carries within him all the beauty of African blues. A diamond among the jewels of Mandingo music, he shines with the dark glow of exceptional purity. Only the voice of "Kar Kar" (a footballing nickname meaning “The Dribbler” given him by his friends, who also love the beautiful game) can blend Niger and Mississippi river alluvia with such moving authenticity. His unique, inimitable, self-taught guitar technique owes a great deal to his kora influences, but its shades and phrasing also suggest the great black bluesmen of the deep South: Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and others.
Back in the 60s when the euphoria of African independence reigned, the 20-year-old Boubacar Traoré was Mali’s Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. He was the first to play Mandingo-based music on electric guitar, long before his junior, Ali Farka Touré. In those days, Malians would wake to the sound of Boubacar’s poignant voice and saturated riffs. Hits including "Mali Twist" (Children of independent Mali, we must stand on our feet / Let all the young people return to their homeland / We must build the country together) and "Kayeba" provided dance music for a generation who were enjoying freedom for the first time. But then the celebrations and lyrical illusions ended. On the 19th November 1968, a bitter wind blew across Mali when Modibo Keita’s socialist government was overthrown by a military coup. Kar Kar and his songs were exiled from the airwaves. Returning penniless to Kayes, his hometown in the Kassonké region (to the northeast of Bamako near the Senegalese border), Boubacar became a farm worker, opened a shop with his elder brother - the one who had introduced him to the guitar and given him his first one - and worked to feed his family.
He was rediscovered in 1987 when reporters from Malian national television visited Kayes. “Kar, you have to come to Bamako. You’ve never been seen on television since it began. Everyone should realise you’re not dead, you’re alive…” It was a renaissance for the artist. “People were amazed to see me. Most of them had only heard me on the radio,” he said at the time. Yet fate was to put a stop to Kar Kar’s musical rebirth. Pierrette, his beautiful mixed-race wife, his muse, his love, died bringing their last child into the world. Despairing and distraught, Kar Kar became a shadow of himself. It was then that he decided to look for work in Paris, where he joined the community of Malian migrant workers and shared their harsh life. “I was a building worker for two years,” is his only comment on this personal experience, but one of his songs says it all: “You can be a king at home, but when you’re a migrant, you’re a nobody.” The legacy of his time in the Barbès immigrant quarter of Paris and the hostel in Montreuil where he sometimes performed is the flat cap the tall Malian wears today.
In Paris, an English producer discovered him and took him to the studio to record his first album, "Mariama", in 1990. Poignant, spare and melancholic, Kar Kar’s music had changed since his youth in the 60s. Now it was more refined, the art of a mature man expressing his heartaches and joys in song, his unique vocal timbre shrouded in nostalgia and poetry. Boubacar Traoré’s life changed quickly after the record’s release. He recorded another 6 albums: "Sécheresse" (Drought) in 1992; "Les enfants de Pierrette" (Pierrette’s Children) in 1995, "Sa Golo" in 1996, "Maciré" in 1999, music from the eponymous film directed by Jacques Sarasin: "Je chanterai pour toi" (I’ll Sing for You) in 2002, and "Kongo Magni" in 2005. Kar Kar made up for lost time, triumphing on stage first in Europe and then in the United States and Canada.
Boubacar Traoré is a discreet, exceptional artist. "Mali Denhou", his first album since 2005, was recorded in warm, friendly surroundings in June 2010 at Studio Moffou, set up by Salif Keita on the outskirts of Bamako. Kar Kar worked with the same musical cast who had performed with him all over the world for years. The first takes were laid down with his old friend Madieye Niang on gourd and Vincent Bucher on harmonica, playing in live conditions.
Vincent Bucher is undoubtedly one of the best harmonicists around today. Influenced by Little Walter, Big Walter Horton and Sonny Boy Williamson, he has toured with many American bluesmen, including Eddie Shaw, Louisiana Red, Magic Slim, Melvin Taylor and Robert Lockwood Junior. In France, Bucher formed a duo with the French-Malagasy Tao Ravao and has played with many African artists, including Lobi Traoré (on 2 albums), Henri Dikongué and Tom Diakité. An unsurpassed stylist with an intense, liquid technique, Vincent fits perfectly into Kar Kar’s highly individual musical world. The Malian is full of praise for the musician, who adds a touch of emotion and exceptional fluidity to his songs. Two of the most highly-regarded young musicians on the Bamako scene - members of Ballaké Sissoko’s group - also feature on severa

Discography

"Mali Denhou" - Lusafrica/Sony Music
"Kongo Magni" - Marabi/Harmonia Mundi
"Je chanterai pour toi" DVD - Marabi/Harmonia Mundi
"Je chanterai pour toi" - Marabi/Harmonia Mundi
"Maciré" - Label Bleu/Harmonia Mundi
"Sa golo" - Label Bleu/Harmonia Mundi
"Les enfants de Pierrette" - Revue Noire
"Kar Kar" - Stern's
"Mariama" - Stern's