Boubacar Traore


The music of Malian singer and guitarist Boubacar Traoré is a perfect balance to the early work of Ali Farka Toure. It also provides a very good entry point into African music for the guitarist attempting this music for the first time. The pieces are mostly simple cyclical works in standard tuning.

Boubacar’s nickname is Kar Kar “a nickname I got from playing soccer when I was young. People would yell ‘Kari, Kari’ – dribble, dribble – the name stuck with me.”

Boubacar’s music is influenced by Blues and by the music of the Kasonké people in the Kyes region in Mali where he grew up. Boubacar’s brother also spent some time studying music in Cuba, and it was him that taught Boubacar to play guitar.

Boubacar has had a difficult musical career, from being a radio star in Mali in the 60’s who could not support himself with music alone, to being a migrant worker in Paris after a twenty year silence, until he was rediscovered and released in Europe by Stern’s music.

His music is heart wrenchingly beautiful and a wonderful contrast to the more roots and blues style of his fellow countryman Ali Farka Touré. The contrast of the music of these two musicians reminds us that Mali is a country in the modern sense of nationhood, yet contains the music and cultures of a vast range of people.

Boubacar’s guitar playing, like Ali’s, uses the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and the guitar is played with a Capo. His pieces are more harmonically driven that Ali’s, usually cycling on two chords with melodic embellishment.


Derek Gripper