Ballaké Sissoko was born into a family of performers in Mali spanning several generations.
As such, he began playing the kora instrument as a child and grew up surrounded by its unique traditional tones — playing and listening to the music with many others in his family.
The Malina musician debuted his new album called ‘Djourou’ at a concert in Bamako on Saturday.
It is the first time in six years that he performs in his own country as his last in-person performance on his home soil was in 2015 with cellist Vincent Segal.
The project was released in April in France where Sissoke resides but for this international artist, it was important to personally bring it home along with wife singer Fatima to Mali — in spite of any continued restrictions imposed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Covid 19 is a real catastrophe, for the artists that are not paid per month but per performance. Because if there is no concert there is no money,” he explains.
The travel and gathering restrictions that came with the unprecedented global health crisis greatly impacted the livelihoods of many musicians around the world — many of whom earn their main source of income from show ticket sales.
However, improvised virtual concerts are not always an alternative solution.
The Malian musician shares why the trip home was extremely important to him.
“The release of my new album was officially in April in France, but because of that, it was necessary for me to come, to present this album (called) ‘Djourou’ to the Malian public.
“Because the Malian don’t have the opportunity to see the live concert on the internet. The concert this evening is a good thing (way) to present my work in Mali.”
In recent years, Mali has also been dealing with several political crises.