One of the musicians Craig met in Belgium was Hannes d’Hoine, who had studied jazz and classical double bass at the Antwerp Conservatory, and also played with the cult experimental band Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung. Mark, Craig and Hannes recorded an album together called ‘Waiting for the Storm’ in 2012, influenced by the acoustic folk tradition of Bert Jansch, Davey Graham and Nick Drake. Yacouba and Mali were two more strands in this complex Celtic knot, and the idea of combining British folky elements with West African influences appealed to all concerned.
For all the musicians, it was important to meet and record in the same room, and for the project to involve “home and away legs” for the musicians based in Europe and in Africa. The floodwaters subsided, and after a debut gig at the Ford village hall, Mark and Yacouba took the tapes to Paris where Nigerian drummer Tony Allen added his inimitably funky shuffle to the mixes. A few weeks later, back in Bamako, the newly-dubbed Alba Griot Ensemble played at the Festival Acoustic Bamako, sharing a stage with Damon Albarn, Tony Allen and the great kora player Toumani Diabate. A few more sessions at Bamako’s famous Bogolan studios, with a dream cast of local musicians dropping in to add their hot and dusty magic (Toumani and his brother Madou Sidiki Diabate, singer Pamela Badjogo, balaphon-player Lassana Diabate, percussionist Baba Sissoko and French keyboardist Jean-Philippe Dary) and it was job done.
The collaboration widened the horizons of all involved. “Working with Yacouba allowed us to explore textures in a really interesting way,” says Craig, “and to throw very different elements at each other, which combined to create a musical landscape that none of us had ever visited before.” Yacouba says. “With Alba Griot, what is exciting for me is that it is really an exchange – we are all participating on an equal level, and together we have created something new and beautiful.