Between Aarhus and Bamako lie 6,593 kilometers – and a deep socio-economic divide. This is why people have long been drawn from Africa to Europe. Unfortunately, the opposite is rarely the case. “Sira Kura”, the debut album from the Danish-Malian band Faratuben, shows what is possible when musicians move out of their comfort zones and meet at eye level. The music from this Bamako-based band is not just another variation of Afrobeat, nor a retrospective reminiscence of Fela Kuti. It is an electrified version of the centuries-old Bwa and Bobo music, and differs from the traditional Kora sounds of a Toumani Diabaté and Salif Keïta with its increased pressure and tempo. The three Danes, Mikas Bøgh Olesen, Jakob de Place and Mads Voxen, came to Mali as part of an exchange program of the Conservatoire de Arts et Metiers Multimédia (CAMM), where they heard traditional Bobo music for the first time. Bobo is what the French colonizers called the Bwa people, an oppressed minority living in Burkina Faso and northern Mali. The percussive music of the Bwa is driven by various percussion instruments and the sound of the balofon, a type of xylophone with calabashes suspended below. The three Danish music students were completely enthralled with this dynamic sound that accompanies religious ceremonies as well as weddings and parties in Mali. Guitarist and studio owner Dieudonne Koita, vocalist Sory Dao and balofon virtuoso Kassim Koita, formed a band that was originally intended to perform only once: at the Bamako Jazz Festival. The name Bobo Jazz Experience was used on the posters at the time. But the performance was too grandiose not to continue. At the Bogolan Studio in downtown Bamako, the musicians recorded the songs “Terete” and “Pari” a short time later, which rapidly went into heavy rotation at the TV station ORTM and on various Malian radio stations. In the meantime the band had decided on the name Faratuben, a combination of the words “farafin” (black) and “toubabou” (white). The musicians often live and rehearse together in the mountains outside Bamako, in a village called Kati, which the Koita family calls home. The Koita family is a large clan that has produced many important musicians. “Electrification is quite new in our tradition, and the first person to play Bwa music on an electric guitar was our father, Pakuene Koita”, says Dieudonne. His brother Kassim has been voted best balofon player in Mali four times. Faratuben are also becoming more and more successful in Mali, playing at weddings, parties and increasingly at big festivals like “Spot on Mali Music”. In short, it was high time for a debut album! “Sira Kura” is extremely varied fusion, in which the pulsating polyrhythms of Bwa music are organically combined with elements of jazz and art pop – played at a dreamlike higher level. “A modern mix of 10CC and Osibisa”, as keyboarder Mikas calls it. And indeed, such overwhelming melodiousness and such complex songwriting is rarely found in Afrobeat. In Bambara, one of the many languages spoken in Mali, “Sira Kura” means “new direction”. But Faratuben is about more than parties and good moods. The rousingly combative “Mi Njan Mure Mure” tells of days when Mali was a French colony: “You took our land, you took our space, you torture us, you treated us with barbarity.” The musicians see their band as living anti-racism. As Dieudonne says: “I never thought before that I could meet white people on an equal footing and on one level. That white people live, eat and sleep in my house and live together with my family, just like I do. Such a thing is very rare in Mali. We are happy and proud that through Faratuben we can show that it is possible to create a community beyond race and skin color.” Meanwhile, the band has also gained a loyal fan base in Scandinavia. In Denmark, where the album was released last year, “Sira Kura” was awarded the Danish Music Award for the best “globalpop” album. And in August, the musicians also received a nomination for the DMA Roots Award. Faratuben are now back again after being stuck in Aarhus from March to August due to Corona, and could only return to Mali at the end of the month. In their luggage, they carry the songs for their second album, which were written during their quarantine. But, until then, “Sira Kura” will ensure that autumn in Germany sizzles. Bwa music rules!