Bamako Airlines plays a style of music not commonly heard. Audiences are drawn to the catchy horn riffs, intricate guitar patterns, danceable beats, and powerful call-and-response vocals. Few bands offer such an exhilarating tour of the African continent. Named after the capital of Mali, Bamako Airlines has steadily grown a following and is now releasing its eponymous debut CD, recorded live at Top Hat Studios in Austin.
“If you close your eyes, you’d never know!” exclaimed members of Kenyan band Sauti Sol, commenting on the contrast between the authentic sounds of the Afrocentric band and their deceiving appearance. Bamako Airlines is composed of eight veteran musicians with backgrounds in a variety of genres, all of whom are drawn to the polyrhythmic, electric nature of Afropop.
Vocalist Meera Chandy is trained in Indian classical music and handles the trills and pentatonic melodies of Afropop with ease. Meera was introduced to the genre over a decade ago along with trumpeter and arranger Brian Carr when they joined an Afropop ensemble at The University of Texas at Austin. Guitarist Chris Vestre, of Torch fame, also leads his own critically lauded jazz ensemble. Michael Goldsmith (guitar) has a post-rock background and has scored various internet and film projects. David Justh is an accomplished drummer and has spent many years studying percussion in Brazil.
Bamako Airlines’ debut CD presents tunes from Algeria, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Mali; as well as an original song written by guitarist Vestre with lyrics penned by singer Chandy. Latin influences also permeate Bamako Airlines through Greg Goodman, veteran bassist of Sexto Sol and Kiko Villamizar. Hailing from Conakry, Guinea, master percussionist Aboubacar Sylla attacks the polyrhythms of Afropop with unfettered joy. Also featured on the CD is saxophonist Ryan McCormack, whose wailing solos reflect his strong jazz background.