Vieux Farka Touré

May 04, 2012 No Comments

Vieux Farka Touré – The son of Malian music legend Ali Farka  Touré, Vieux’s self titled debut album came out in 2007 on World Village, produced by Modiba’s Eric Herman. In an example of how artists can redefine the way music reaches a global audience as well and reinvent music as an agent for social change by having a proven impact on on a grassroots community level, 10% of the proceeds of the album go to the “Fight Malaria” campaign started by Modiba. Launched in Vieux’s hometown Niafunké, the initiative has provided over 3000 mosquito nets to children and pregnant women in the Timbuktu region of Mali. As with most artists from Africa and South America, the idea of of building a global network by which musicians band together to raise awareness for and increase the capacity of social change initiatives on a constant basis is as natural to Vieux as the fluid sound of his guitar playing.

His latest solo album with “The Secret” is pictured at right below, next to the just released album “The Touré-Raichel Collective – Tel Aviv Session,” with Israeli pianist Idan Raichel. In a beautiful statement of musical transcendence, the rhythmically infectious album brings an Israeli Jew together with a Malian Muslim, soaring straight over the stale and outdated political dialogue of divisiveness, a strong image of the world that the young generation is making.

    “Vieux and I share the same DNA,” asserts Idan, “We are both deeply linked to the places where we come from, our family and spiritual roots. These are the things that really matter.” Asked about his thoughts on the imherent statement in their post-border musical merger, Vieux says, “Music has no borders. What’s important is the spirit between people – their backgrounds are not a factor at all if there is a shared respect and a musical connection.”

Vieux sits down with Stephan to talk about his music, his father’s legacy and the importance of lyrics and social consciousness in African music. The energetic conversation touches on identity and cultural amnesia – the importance of knowing where we come from if we wish to change where we’re going as individuals and as a human race.

Here are a couple great videos just shot at Galapagos UK:

Find out more by visiting and

Warren Haynes, musician, change-maker

Dec 14, 2011 No Comments

Warren Haynes is the lead singer and guitarist for Gov’t Mule, and widely known as one of the most revered guitarists alive today, having played with Dickey Betts, the Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and countless others. His new solo album “Man In Motion” (2011) includes an anthem for troubled times “Rivers Gonna Rise” (link to live YouTube of song).  He’s always been passionate about the power of music to change the world, and especially in artists’ responsibility to use their voices to help make a better world, and believes we need to hear songs about a better world if we want to create one. He sits down with Stephan on his tour bus here to discuss these and more issues on the very night Occupy Wall Street started. It’s amazing to be launching this video now 58 days after it was shot, when now everyone from David Crosby and Graham Nash to Kanye West have since marched down to show their support of the populist movement.

It’s no surprise Warren would be outspoken in totally down home intrepid, all american southern man way. He has set an example for years of going beyond hearsay and creating sustainable change with his Christmas Jam. Starting in 1989, Haynes put together an annual charity benefit show, inviting musicians originally from his home town of Asheville who were home for Christmas, the only time of year they would all be in town at the same time. The first show, held at the 45 Cherry club in Asheville on December 29, 1989, was dubbed “The Christmas Jam: Musician’s X-Mas Reunion.”

In the initial years the proceeds from the concert were donated to various charities but eventually the organizers decided to focus on Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds houses for the disadvantaged. In tribute to his financial support of Habitat for Humanity, a subdivision in Lower Hominy, North Carolina, a suburb of Asheville, North Carolina has a street named after Warren Haynes. In 2002, Haynes was presented the Key to the City of Asheville by Mayor Charles Worley. In 2003, Mayor Worley proclaimed December 18 “Warren Haynes Day.”

Past performers include The Allman Brothers Band, Blues TravelerJackson BrowneJohnny WinterDrive-By TruckersDJ Logic,Peter Frampton, Gov’t Mule, John HiattBruce HornsbyHot TunaJohn Paul Jones (musician)Ray LaMontagnePhil Lesh & Friends,Umphrey’s McGeeLittle FeatLiving ColourBranford MarsalisDave MatthewsNeville Brothers, New Orleans Social Club, North Mississippi AllstarsPhish‘s Trey Anastasio and Mike GordonGrace Potter & The NocturnalsRobert Randolph & The Family BandJohn ScofieldDr.Ralph StanleyMarty StuartTaj Mahal TrioSusan TedeschiThe Derek Trucks Band,Bob Weir, Widespread Panic’s John Bell, Dave Schools, John (Jo Jo) Herman, Todd Nance & Jimmy Herring, Kevin Kenney from Drivin’ N Cryin’, and Edwin McCain.

Vusi Mahlasela

Dec 14, 2011 No Comments

Click on the image for the interview with Vusi Mahlasela. “The Voice” of the South African anti-apartheid movement talks about music and social change his inspiration to join the freedom movement, and the need for artists singing for unity today. Visit his website here: where you can see more videos, check tour dates, and find our more about his most recent album “Say Africa.”

Vusi’s songs of hope connect Apartheid-scarred South Africa with its promise for a better future. But in this conversation with Stephan, Vusi makes clear the need for artists to raise their voices, and utilize their power to bring people together all over the world. They close by imagining difrent:’s vision of creating a new model for the music business that embodies change, embodies a solution, where music is distributed through the networks creating positive impact on a constant basis, creating awareness, raising funds, and building that great movement we’ve all waited for.

Raised in the Mamelodi Township, where he still resides, Vusi became a singer-songwriter and poet-activist at an early age teaching himself how to play guitar and later joining the Congress of South African Writers. After his popular debut on BMG Africa, When You Come Back, Vusi was asked to perform at Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 and continues to spread Mandela’s message as an official ambassador to Mandela’s HIV/AIDS initiative, 46664.

After world-wide touring and international acclaim, Americans first caught a glimpse of Vusi in the lauded documentary film Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, and the accompanying soundtrack. After the release of the film, long-time admirer and fellow South African, Dave Matthews, signed Vusi to his own ATO Records label and released The Voice (2003)¸ a collection of the best songs from Vusi’s catalog. In 2007, ATO released his latest album, Guiding Star, his first full-length release in the States. ATO Records will release the highly anticipated follow-up record to Guiding Star on January 18, 2011. The new album, Say Africa, produced by Taj Mahal and recorded at Dave Matthews’ studio in Charlottesville, VA, captures Vusi’s hope for the future of Africa: ‘Let all those who share in Mandela’s greatest wish—to one day see an Africa that is at peace with herself—SAY AFRICA.’

After recording the album in the States this spring, Vusi returned to his home in South Africa and was honored to help ring in the World Cup at FIFA’s Kick Off Concert at Orlando Stadium. The concert was broadcast internationally to an estimated one billion viewers. Following his performance, Vusi proudly introduced fellow South African, Archbishop Desmond Tutu on stage. Vusi’s anthemic song ‘When You Come Back’ was ITV’s official theme song for the World Cup in the UK. Other recent highlights include performing at Mandela Day to honor Mandela’s birthday, touring with Bela Fleck behind the release of his Grammy-winning album ‘Throw Down Your Heart,’ which features a live track from Vusi and Bela, two appearances at the TED conference and performing with Paul Simon.

In the midst of a busy international touring schedule, Vusi remains dedicated to his social activism and partnerships with non-profits, including his own Vusi Mahlasela Music Development Foundation, committed to the promotion of and preservation of African music. Other organizations that Vusi actively supports are OXFAM, The Acumen Fund, The African Leadership Academy and the ONE campaign.

Over a musically and socially consequential career, South African singer-songwriter and poet-activist Vusi Mahlasela has successfully followed his muse and continued to give back to his country. As he puts it, he knows that ‘musicians have to be like watchdogs, just by seeing and speaking out, directly to the youth as well, because we need some kind of Cultural Revolution to remove ignorance.”

Amadou and Mariam

Oct 25, 2011 No Comments

Click on the image to view the interview! The globo-pop duo whose songs have sold millions sat down with Stephan to discuss the roots of social change in Malian music, the new border-breaking music and activist revolution they consider themselves to be a part of, and the need for artists everywhere to raise their voices for change. They discuss some of their songs in particular such as “La Paix” (“Peace”), “Unissons Nous” (Let’s Unite) and “A Chacun Son Probleme” (Every has their own problems). In 2010 they became ambassadors for the World Food Programme (Programme Alimentaire Mondiale)  campaign against hunger, and just released a song Lebendela to raise awareness and funds for the initiative. Click on the links to view videos of these songs and you can view their website to find out their latest news, releases.


Welcome to the world of Amadou & Mariam, a sphere that now stretches from the dusty streets of Bamako to playing the mainstage at Glastonbury, and from the timeless traditions of Mali to playing the official FIFA World Cup Opening Concert in Johannesburg this summer.


Over the last few years big-selling albums such as  ”Welcome to Mali”  and ”Dimanche à Bamako” have taken Amadou and Mariam on an epic journey that has made the couple the best-selling – and best-loved – act to come out of Africa this century.


Along the way they have performed with the likes of Damon Albarn,  Manu Chao and the Scissor Sisters and have been enthusiastically embraced by Western rock fans. One minute they’re touring the US with Coldplay and the next minute, Pink Floyd guitar legend David Gilmour is sitting in with them on stage in London for Crisis. They recently played the Nobel Peace Prize concert in honour of Barack Obama, and were selected by Matt Groening (of The Simpson’s fame) to perform at his edition of All Tomorrow’s Parties.Their biography ‘Away From The Light of Day’ was published in English this summer.

All this has been achieved while remaining true to their roots and without compromising their authenticity. Their unique mix of unforgettable pop melodies and contagious rhythms, driven by Amadou’s bluesy electric guitar and the  compelling interplay of their two voices may have its roots deeply planted in Africa.


Yet this is music for the world, rather than ‘world music’. Music that effortlessly transcends classification or  genre and   vaults  the fickle dictates of fad and fashion. Music that remains as popular across Africa as it has now become in Europe and America.


It’s easy to understand why some have dubbed Amadou & Mariam  ‘the magic couple’.  Yet in truth their achievements are down to a combination of craft and graft  rather than supernatural charms. All great musicians work hard to achieve their success. But when you’re an African act and don’t sing in English,  you have to work harder than most  – and Amadou & Maram have toured tirelessly to take their music to audiences around the globe for whom African music was previously uncharted territory.


Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia  both grew up in Mali, then under colonial rule and known as  the French Sudan, prior to its independence in 1959. While Mariam grew up in the capital Bamako, Amadou was raised 500 miles away,  in the region of  Mopti.


By the age of six Mariam  had gone blind, a disadvantage that did not prevent her from becoming famous in her community as a singer at weddings and other traditional ceremonies. Amadou also lost his eyesight in childhood but was fascinated by music, first playing percussion and then taking up the guitar.


They met in 1977 while attending the Institute for Young Blind in Bamako (where to this day they play an annual benefit concert).


Influenced by the records of Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd as well as traditional African music,  Amadou attended blind school by day but by night  played guitar  in the Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, one of West Africa’s most legendary bands. He also began working in the institute’s own band with Mariam, who cites her influences as including James Brown, Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd alongside the great traditional female djelis of Malian song.


Defying the advice of the school authorities who felt their union could never work, they became a couple, both romantically and musically. On leaving the school in 1983, they began working as a duo. “It was just guitar and our two voices at the beginning and we had success like that. We were making a living playing in Bamako and it  was working well,” Amadou recalls.  “But there was no music industry in Mali, no recording studios or producers at that time so we had to go to Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire to start recording  and take us forward to the next stage.”


The original cassette releases they recorded in Abidjan have subsequently been remastered and reissued by Because Music on the box set ‘1990-1995: The Best of the African Years’.


Amadou and Mariam spent five years in Abidjan, using it as a base to tour and expand their fame all over West Africa before  they eventually returned to Bamako. By 1996 their reputation had spread as far as Paris, where they were offered a six month residency in an African restaurant.


In Paris they met  Marc-Antoine Moreau, a key figure in their story, who at the time was employed by Polygram (now Universal) and was already a fan, having bought one of Amadou & Mariam’s tapes on a visit to Mali.


With their visas about to expire, Amadou & Mariam were forced to return to Bamako. But Moreau promised to find a way to bring them back. By 1997  he had secured them a record deal with Polygram’s Emarcy label and, true to his word, brought them back to Europe. After organising a workshop with them at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios, he decided to produce their first album himself and has been guiding their career as manager and producer ever since.


‘Sou Ni Tile’, their first album recorded outside Africa, appeared in 1998,  and after the track Je Pense A Toi  became a French radio hit, the album went on to sell 100,000.  It was followed by two further albums, ‘Tje ni Mousso’ (1999) and ‘Wati’ (2002).


At this point enter Manu Chao. Having fallen in love with Amadou & Mariam’s music, he enthusiastically joined them on 2005’s ”Dimanche à Bamako”, as producer and collaborator.


Released on Because Music, ”Dimanche à Bamako” propelled Aamdou & Mariam high into the French charts and became one of the best-seling African albums of all time, winning them both a prestigious Les Victoires de la Musique award (the French equivalent of the Grammys) and two BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music.


It also presented Amadou & Mariam with fresh opportunities to tour the globe. They went from playing WOMAD to appearing at Glastonbury and from performing in small clubs to selling-out the world’s major concert venues and appearing at American festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza. They also performed at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Germany 2006.


“We were  expecting something big because Manu is so well-known,” Amadou says. “But we were very surprised by how huge it was.  After playing together for 25 years, we suddenly become pop stars. Playing at rock festivals has been a dream come true for me because I’ve loved rock music all my life.”


How to follow such a touchstone album might have been problematic. Instead, the process appeared effortless when Welcome To Mali appeared in 2008.


This time there was no Manu Chao but new collaborators Damon Albarn, Somalian rapper K’Naan and Keziah Jones came on board. As Amadou put it at the time of the album’s release: ”Sharing music and ideas with other musicians and finding new ways to express yourself is the most exciting thing you can do as a musician. ”Welcome To Mali” is the result of those meetings and opportunities. It continues what we’ve been doing for a long time, but it’s a development, too, in which where we’ve come from and where we want to go meet.”


Since then the story has continued apace. Rave reviews for the album have been followed by some thrilling performances, including appearances with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express,  during which they jammed with the Magic Numbers and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and a main stage triumph at Glastonbury 2009.


As both Amadou and Mariam grew up listening to Pink Floyd, a particular thrill was a performance with David Gilmour at a benefit concert for the Crisis housing charity. The former Floyd guitarist played an entire set with them and then reappeared for an impromptu and unrehearsed encore. ”Amadou and Mariam are great musicians and it was a privilege to share a stage with them,” Gilmour said after the event.


Meanwhile the appeal of their sound across different cultures, continents and ages was shown when the 22 year-old New York-based hip-hop maven Theophilus created a bootleg remix of ”Sabali” (written by Albarn for Mariam’s voice and a highlight of the Welcome To Mali album) and posted it on MySpace. Amadou & Mariam fell in love with what he had done with the track and Theophilus has since played dates with them in London and New York, while  his remix has been promoted from unsanctioned bootleg to become Amadou & Mariam’s next official single.


“When I first  heard Sabali I didn’t know what it was,” Theophilus says. ”But it really connected with me. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I thought I could add to it and put my mood on the track.  We don’t speak the same language but the music is all you need to communicate.”


July 2009 found Amadou & Mariam supporting Blur in London’s Hyde Park before embarking on a tour of the US with stadium-fillers Coldplay. As Blur’s Damon Albarn puts it : ”I don’t think there’s ever been a band from Africa with whom people have engaged in quite such a way.”





Stephan Said- Song of Healing

Jan 14, 2011 No Comments

Emmanuel Jal

Sep 20, 2010 No Comments