On July 7, 2015, Mali lost one of its most iconic and revered singers, Bako Dagnon, aged only 62. She was not well known outside the country, despite two international CD releases, but at home she was feted by everyone from Mali’s presidents to the humblest farmers and taxi drivers. Musicians such as Ali Farka Touré and Rokia Traoré were inspired by her voice, which was not only beautiful, but carried great authority. Bako transcended politics and regional styles; she represented the last of the old school of hereditary musicians, who learned her skills and knowledge with the elders, face to face.
Between 2009-2012, the 'Growing into Music in Mali' film team were extremely fortunate to film this wonderful singer at her home in Bamako, as well as in her remote native village, Golobladji. Some of these scenes can be seen in 'Da Kali - the pledge to the art of the griots', from which this shorter film, 'Bako Dagnon - the voice of tradition', is extracted. It gives many candid and unique insights into oral transmission as it was decades ago in rural Mali. Bako explains and demonstrates her ideas and philosophy about passing on musical skills and knowledge to the next generation, and we see several of her granddaughters learning and performing. The film includes rare footage of the sansene in Golobladji – a tradition of songs sung to encourage farmers in their laborious work in the fields during the rainy season – one of the main contexts in which young children learn to sing.
A film by Lucy Durán
Edited by Michele Banal
AHRC Anniversary Research In Film Awards 2015:
Anniversary Award (Best AHRC/AHRB- funded film since 1998)