Markus James & The Wassonrai

Markus James & The Wassonrai


"A vital mix of the Mississippi Delta and Mali, a cultural exchange of haunting beauty and mystery."¬óBlues Revue Magazine "Music that conjures the very soul of the Sahara...evokes the spirit of the blues." ¬óBillboard Magazine Hypnotic desert rhythms/hill country blues-dance to trance!


Playing exciting bottleneck slide on acoustic and electric guitars, Markus is generally acknowledged by the world music press and radio as the young father of the cross-cultural hybrid of American hill country blues and traditional Malian music. Markus and the Wassonrai sing in both English and Malian dialects.

In February 2007, the UK's highly respected World Music publication fROOTS called Markus James the "unofficial dean of this movement" of up and coming roots musicians connecting with the African source, saying:

"The magic is not only about the rich brooding sound textures he and his musicians craft, simmering grooves and ethereal melodies that
elide the worlds of the Mississippi and Niger rivers. It also extends to the words and meaning."

In the United States, popular jam bands like Toubab Krewe and The North Mississippi All Stars
have tipped their collective hat to him in acknowledgement.

In March 2007, Markus James was honored to be invited to perform in Bamako and Niafounke, Mali, at the series of three tribute concerts celebrating the life his friend and inspiration, the legendary Ali
Farka Toure. These concerts featured Mali's greatest artists and were broadcast throughout Mali. Markus has performed at the legendary Festival In the Desert in Mali three times and has a standing invitation to return.

Markus has been traveling and recording in Mali, West Africa since 1994, when he first made his way to the village of Niafounke to meet and mentor with the legendary West African Bluesman and Grammy-winning recording artist, Ali Farka Toure. Since then Markus has developed ongoing collaborations with several masters of traditional Malian music, living together in an adobe-walled house while composing, recording and performing together in the desert region of Timbuktu - the near-mythological crossroads at the southern edge of the Sahara. Markus' albums Nightbird and Timbuktoubab, his award-winning PBS 2005 film, TIMBUKTOUBAB, and Calabash Blues have all received excellent critical acclaim, as have his performances in the US with Malian artists based here.

Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits and Mickey Hart are amongst his fans.

The 2008 tour behind SNAKESKIN VIOLIN is being supported by a major feature on the "House of Blues Radio Hour" (airing March 1-2, 2008) as well other nationally syndicated radio features.


Are You Ready(Mississippi Daze)

Written By: Markus James

Recorded in Como, Mississippi
Markus James (guitar,vocals)
Calvin Jackson (house drums)
Mamadou Sidibe (kamele n'goni)

You be high ridin even though
You seen a sign sayin' look out below
10,000 saviors come and go

Are you ready?

Water risin' rain upstream
Future like yesterday's dream
Seems like nothin' like what it seems

Are you ready?

Over Como Mississippi daze
All night lightnin' sky like a maze
Boogie children and purple haze

Are you ready?

Crossroad gypsy guilty innocent
Trainwreck runaway
Last chance heavensent
Satellite hypnotize floodwater getaway
Angel disguise who's who anyway

Are you ready
Are you ready, chile ??

Sundown Pearl (Snakeskin Violin, Pt. 1)

Written By: Markus James, Hamadou Garba

Recorded in Timbuktu, Mali
Markus James (guitar, vocals)
Hamadou Garba(Ho Le Hoire violin, vocal)
Baba Arby(Calabash)

With your mojo whimsey
And your Ho Le hand
I was hypnotized by the beauty
Your song from the genie land

Leave me in this rundown world
Vanish like a sundown pearl
Change so fast hard to know
When to hang on
And when to let go

I was dreamin' of a sad condition
When I heard you say goodbye
Came and went like an apparition
Now it's so lonely by the riverside

Sonrai vocal: invocation


"This is an extremely powerful could be a BIG album." --Ben Manilla, Executive Director, House of Blues Radio Hour

SNAKESKIN VIOLIN-released February 19, 2008.
SNAKESKIN VIOLIN is a kaleidoscopic journey in which fellow travellers appear and vanish.
It features collaborations with a
shaman in Timbuktu; old-school drummers in Como, Mississippi; Wassoulou hunters; Tamashek
women in Timbuktu, African Diaspora musicians in California and Malian master musicians in Bamako.


TIMBUKTOUBAB (DVD-2005) Filmed in and around the legendary cultural crossroads of Timbuktu at the Southern edge of the Sahara, this uplifting documentary about the cross-cultural collaboration between a white Blues-loving American and the traditional Malian musicians who keep the ancients roots alive has been awarded a CINE Golden Eagle Award, and been broadcast on many PBS and satellite stations throughout the US.



Set List

Sets vary depending on festival, concert or club setting. All original. Count on a cathartic experience.