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Maison Des Jeunes: A Cross-World Collaboration Done Right

Above is our premiere of the video for Yacouba Sissoko Band’s “Chanson Denko Tapestry,” produced by none other than Brian Eno. Read frequent Noisey contributor Zachary Lipez’s piece on Maison Des Jeunes, the compilation the track appears on, below.

In 2012, a combination of a coup in the south of Mali and an uprising (first by the Taureg independence movement but quickly taken over by extremist Islamist groups) in the north threw the country into chaos. People fled their homes in the thousands, many were killed, and the country’s future as a constitutional democracy was put into doubt. A combination of a revitalized Malian army and French intervention, earlier this year, stemmed the majority of the carnage and wholesale cultural destruction.

Art is arguably not as important as politics and the life and death choices that go with it, but the conflict in the north is the inevitable backstory of the making of Maison Des Jeunes. The record would have, no doubt, been made either way; the music of Mali is beloved worldwide and for good reason, but, as always, with any record, one can never, as much as one would like to, just talk about the music. People make the music and people live in the world.

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Photos by Nick Zinner

Maison Des Jeunes, made over the course of seven days in Bamako and named after the youth hostel/center where it was recorded was put together by Africa Express, a musical collaboration organized by Daman Albarn, between musicians from the UK (and to a lesser extent the US) and their counterparts in various nations in Africa. Albarn started it in 2006 (though his connection and love of Malian music started far earlier- his Mali Music album is extremely great). Depending on the situation of the country they’re joining with, Africa Express makes a recording, puts on a show, or just has extended jam sessions with the musicians from all involved countries. With Maison Des Jeunes, the decision was to make a cohesive album. The result is as thrilling a collection of songs as you’re going to find in 2013. Each song is collusion between a Malian musician (mostly unknown in the west—with this effort the organizers in Africa Express chose to boost lesser-known musicians than earlier efforts, as presumably the conflict in the North heightened the need to spread the wealth a bit…) and their western counterpart. After a brief period of socializing, the artists would pair off as they saw best and just start making whatever music the spirit encouraged; sometimes working with already-written material and more often than not starting entirely from scratch.

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