BKO is a journey into the heart of contemporary Malian music, combining two of the West African nation’s most well-known traditions, and bringing together four of Mali’s finest veteran musicians in the process: Ibrahima Sarr (Oumou Sangare), Fassara Sacko, N’Faly Diakité, and Mamoutou Diabate with French percussionist
Aymeric Krol.

The project began when Krol travelled to Bamako to study the djembefola drum
under the tutelage of master drummer Ibrahima Sarr. Together, they assembled
the core group of musicians that would become the BKO Quintet, combining the
very distinct musical traditions of the Mandinka griots—jelis—with that of the
Bambara hunters— donso— to create a completely new sound.

The core group consists of djembe player Ibrahima Sarr, singer Fassara Sacko, and
drummer Aymeric Krol. Add to that N’Faly Diakité, a highly regarded donsongoni
player and grandson of legendary donso master Yoro Sidibé. He joined the band to
record the debut album Bamako Today, and has consistently toured and recorded
with the band ever since. Mamoutou Diabate is a genius of the
smaller djelingoni lute, and has developed a unique, almost psychedelic style,
bringing to mind Jimi Hendrix. He comes from a family of griots, and has performed
and toured with BKO since 2014.

BKO Quintet’s first album, Bamako Today, was a long time coming. It was initially
recorded as a live EP in January 2012, as Mali was engulfed in the chaos of a coup
d’etat and armed rebellion in the North of the country. Despite these crises, the
quintet persevered, and was able to record more tracks in Paris in January of 2013,
finally releasing the album internationally on the Buda Musique label in March 2015.
Afropop’s Banning Eyre wrote of that album: “BKO Quintet literally formed and
made their first recordings amid crisis, and whatever the song lyrics might say,
these performances exude a sense of urgency. The ensemble creates an engaging
blend of rural and urban sensibilities. Prominent in the mix is the sound and feel of
hunters’ music, with the heavy thrumming tones of the donsongoni(hunters’ harp)
played by Nfali Diakite, who adds rap-like incantations that evoke ancient days
when hunters were the storytellers and reporters of their village societies. At the
same time, we have the sharp, nimble sound of the djelingoni (Abdoulaye Kone and
Mbaba Sissoko) and portentous blasts of Mande griot oratory from Fassara Sacko.”
Since 2013, BKO Quintet has gone on to tour the world, playing festivals in Japan,
Korea, southern Africa, and across Europe. The group returned in 2017 with a new
album, Mali Foli Coula (Buda Musique, Nov 2017) which translates as “New Music of
Mali”. Recorded at the Friche Artistique Lamartine studio in Lyon, France, and
directed by the trio of David Kiledjian, Yoan Jauneaud and Aymeric Krol, this album
is more visceral and instinctive than their first release and explores the intersection
of traditional music with the urban scene in Bamako today, incorporating elements
of rock, electric trance, and even some French chanson. Though anchored in
centuries-old traditions, BKO’s music will transport you to the heart of today’s
urban Mali as well as to the ritual and mystical depths of animist hunters.

BKO bandmembers are:
Ibrahima Sarr, powerful percussionist, a master of the djembe drum and who has traveled the
world alongside Malian superstar Oumou Sangare.

Fassara Sacko whose arresting voice differs from other griots in traditional celebrations.
Yoro Sidibé’s grandson, Nfali Diakité , sings and plays his donsongoni on both the international
touring circuit and in animist ceremonies celebrated by his peers.

Mamoutou Diabate, a young master of the djelingoni has been performing with the band since
March of 2017.

Finally Aymeric Krol, experienced with diverse drums on the international stage. Aymeric spent
months each year in Bamako, studying the various drums and rhythmic patterns of Malian
culture. It is there that he met and studied w/Ibrahima Saar, leading to the birth of this band,
the BKO Quintet.