Alba Griot Ensemble
- label:Riverboat/World Music Network
- type: Band, Composer/Songwriter
- instrumentation:instrumental, vocal
The Alba Griot Ensemble adventure – the pioneering contribution leading afro-celtic fusion into the 21st century – had its genesis under the high and dry skies of Bamako, the capital of Mali. Mark Mulholland – after a lifetime of “generally bouncing fairly randomly around the globe”, with music as both his guide and his reason to get out of bed – moved there in 2014. One of the first musicians he met was Yacouba Sissoko, a polyvalent percussionist and master of the ngoni, the traditional ‘lute’ of the Bambara people. They were soon gigging around the city and touring in the provinces.
Next step was to make an album and consummate the unlikely union between Mark’s signature blend of everything funky and groovy between Celtic folk, Psychedelia and the Afro-Manding styles of Yacouba and the Malian musicians who had stumbled into his orbit. Craig Ward was an old busking and drinking buddy from Edinburgh and Glasgow days of the late 1980s, who went on to join Belgian rock gods dEUS before moving up to Argyll in the Scottish highlands. Mark, Craig and double-bassist Hannes d’Hoine of Belgian frontier runners DAAU fame ( Die anarchistische Abendunterhaltung ) had already collaborated on an album called "Waiting for the Storm" in 2012. Yacouba and Mali were about to become two more strands in the complex Celtic knot of Mark’s musical life.
"The Darkness between the Leaves" was recorded in Scotland – a "scenery ( that ) takes my breath away,” as Mark admits – with award-winning Irish producer Dave Odlum. Cheap travel and cheap technology are making trans-continental recording odysseys of this kind increasingly viable - but for Mark Mulholland the impulse was intimacy rather than grandiose adventure. It was important to him for the musicians to meet and record in the same room, wherever that room might be. Such human contact has underpinned all his own musical adventures. “All you have is the road you took / And who you met along the way,” he sings in the title track ‘Darkness Between The Leaves’. That wistful tone is characteristic of the album as whole.
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 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.
Many of the songs on "The Darkness between the Leaves" were – as Mark admits – born in a period of intense introspection and rear-view mirror gazing, partially due to the recent passing of his mother, his partner Corinne’s father and other fellow travellers. Some rear-view mirror gazing into the Mark Mulholland biography to do indeed: from the holidays in Tipperary - his childhood highlight - and an early rock'n'roll addiction he went on to form the Purple Rizla Experience, with his friends Tony Rose and Joe Armstrong; became a post-punk troubadour, busking and gigging around France, Germany, Holland and Spain; along with American singer-guitarist Sean Condron in Irland formed Impure Thoughts, a Stooges, Television and Husker Dü influenced rock’n’roll band; stettled in Berlin; went to Port au Prince, Haiti, in 2010 – where he got in touch with visiting Tony Allen; then Mali, A.H.E.O. – the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra with its highly acclaimed Glitterbeat debut and finally Afro-Griot Ensemble and "The Darkness between the Leaves".
Next? "Whatever comes along", Mark answers. “I neglected to get famous,” he likes to say, “so I’ll just keep doing more of the same, hopefully with great musicians from anywhere and everywhere.”
"The Darkness between the Leaves" is released by Riverboat/ World Music Network.
Read more about the album here
"A remarkable and bold collaborationThe Telegraph
"There is no doubt about the quality of the music that these guys makeBBC Scotland
- Craig Ward (guitar)
- Hannes d’Hoine (bass)
- Mark Mulholland (guitar)
- Yacouba Sissoko (percussion, n’goni )