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Winners of the 2006 Billboard Songwriting Contest - World Category

Winners of the 2008 and 2006 Independent Music Awards for Best Song,                                                      World Music

Grand Prize Winners of the 2008 John Lennon Song Writing Competition


Winners of the 2008, 100% Music Songwriting Contest, Best Song


Winners of Global Rhythm Magazine Song Contest (June 2006 Edition)

The Afrofunk Music Forum

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Mamadou and Vanessa

       By Marc Bruner

Mamadou Sidibe played a groundbreaking role in transforming Malian popular music. He was one of the first to break with tradition by adopting the now-widely used kamale n'goni, a lute-harp-like instrument that exudes a deep, soulful sound. The kamale n'goni was formed by adding a couple of strings to the traditional hunter's lute, the dozon n'goni, to expand the instrument's range and to give it a more varied and open sound. Mamadou also inspried Malian musicians to sing about everyday life, instead of traditional spiritual and hunters' songs.

Mamadou now lives in California with his wife, Vanessa, a talented and accomplished musician in her own right. Together, they produce music that is at once profound and bluesy, but also remarkably soothing and uplifting. Their album Nacama is a pure delight, offering listeners a fresh and vibrant take on West African traditions. In 2006, the pair were honored with awards at the Independent Music Awards and the Billboard World Music Songwriting Contest.

I saw them live last night in Berkeley and it was a fantastic performance -- hours of music that nourished my soul and got me out of my chair and onto the dancefloor. The best part was watching Mamadou on his knees jam away on one of his beloved instruments, which was wrapped in the colors of the Malian flag. Not a scene I will soon forget.

The African flavored world music duo, Mamadou and Vanessa release an interesting collection, Nacama (which means “destiny”). Mamadou plays the six-string dosngoni (which is a hunter’s harp) and the pair blend voices in the festive “Fula.” Vanessa’s soothing alto sings a friendly melody on “A Long Time Ago.” The album is a unique cultural journey and offers a sonic odyssey to match.

Pop Culture Press Around the World- 2005 In review (Part 3)

The burgeoning influence of Malian music will certainly get a lift in the US from the presence of Mamadou Sidibe who has left his native country and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area with his American wife, Vanessa. The two combine forces as Mamadou and Vanessa on Nacama. The record showcases Mamdou's stunning musicianship, especially on the kamalngoni, while the two share vocals, and hopefully this record will earn the pair some deserved recognition.

Reviewed 2005-08-10 

A local couple (now in Berkeley). He’s originally from Mali and sings & plays the kamalngoni...she’s an Afro-Cuban vocalist with a silky-smooth voice and they're joined by friends on guitar, percussion & other instruments. There’s a nice, bluesy thread running throughout and the playing & singing is solid and enjoyable. Overall warm, relaxed, and just plain good. All songs are original by the artists. Lyrics in English and Bambara.

1. Relaxed w/lazy vocal duet. Sort of just fades out at end.
2. A sweet, low-key instrumental w/a light, hopeful feeling..
*3. Nice vocals in a bittersweet love song w/good use of strings.
*4. Bright & happy sway w/a catchy beat.
*5. Light, midtempo w/a lazy Afro-blues sound.
6. Nicely melodic blend of strings/vox. Really pretty & soothing.
7. Bouncy, lightly driving blend of perc/strings/vox.. 
*8. Sweet balafon accents in this happy, sweet little dance.
9. A lazy love song w/good vocals & nice work from the band.
10. Jazz-ish vocals against spare use of percussion. Very peaceful.

Indie Corner

New CDs from independent artists and labels that deserve a listen.  Terry O'Laughlin, Diaspora.

Nacama by Mamdou and Vanessa - An independently produced gem of African based original music played primarily on the kamalngoni by Mamadou. The music is delightful, much better than many I've heard in a similar style from major labels. On Sidibe Records.

Available at CD Baby, where you can sample all the songs. My favorites are Follow You and N'Dia.

reviewed 6/21/05


An Official Publication of


 Nacama by Mamadou & Vanessa Sidibe

 Mamadou Sidibe is a musician/singer/songwriter from Wassalou Mali, married to an Afro-Cuban salsa musician/singer from the USA: they now make their home in Berkeley, California.  One of the things that makes NACAMA interesting is the way the two singers blend or alternate Bambara (Mamadou's native language) with English. Mamadou plays the Kameln'goni  (an eight-string version of the n'goni, which he invented) to accompany the vocals.  The overall sound on NACAMA still sounds traditional to most Western ears, as it's primarily acoustic and uses traditional Malian instruments.  


For the most part the songs are low-key, but some are danceable; just not pounding beats, but more subtle.  At times the n'goni sounds like a cross between a banjo and a guitar (yes, there used to be an instrument made in the USA known as a banjo guitar, but Mamadou's n'Goni only sounds like that once in a while).  The use of repetitive phrases, typical of much African music, hits home even more when sung in English.  Of course, much of the Afro-American music from the US's Southern states used to sound like this: the only contemporary singer / songwriter who uses this technique today (outside of Africa) seems to be Van Morrison. If you're not in the mood this can be off-putting; but if you're in the groove, the effect is very powerful.  Vanessa has a very pleasing, seductive voice which helps listener appreciation even more; as does the balafon (marimba).  No drum kit or synth drums; just a single djembe (West African hand drum), which sounds perfect for the cuts on NACAMA.  A powerful introduction to a powerful duo!

                      World Music CD Reviews, April 2005

                             MAMADOU AND VANESSA: NACAMA

Mamadou Sidibe walked into the KAOS studio on 10 May 2002 holding in his hands the instrument he helped popularize as a young musician: the kamelengoni (or kamele n'goni). Sidibe was one of the first to play this less-known cousin of the kora (a 21-stringed harp) with eight strings instead of the traditional six. The added range helped, but his inherent skill got him gigs across Africa and Europe, playing with the likes of Toumani Diabate, Oumou Sangare, and the legendary Coumba Sidibe.


That day at KAOS he was touring with guitarist Markus James in support of James' album Nightbird. Now Sidibe has his own CD in collaboration with vocalist Vanessa Sidibe (possibly also known as Vanessa Janora). Vanessa provides English-language counterpoise to Mamadou's plucking and singing. While such linguistic hybrids often fall flat, Vanessa's vocals, English or other, are sweet and true. The CD starts with "Nacama" about the difficulty of destiny. The hypnotic, loping groove sets the pace, over which occasionally springs a kamelengoni riff or a soulful burst from Vanessa. It's a winning combination, this blending of African instruments and vocals with English blues-soul vocals. From the fast "Sen Sen" to the sorrowful "N'Dia" Nacama shines. ©2005 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Nacama As the recent release of Festival in the Desert demonstrates, the links between Africa and American rhythm and blues aren't merely historical. There's a vibrant, fascinating musical culture thriving in Mali and in other west African nations that has been championed by Robert Plant, Stevie Wonder and even Bruce Cockburn. If you're a fan of traditional American music, then check out Ali Farka Toure, the Malian John Lee Hooker, whose music is relatively well-known in the west, and is therefore pretty easy to track down. Or try Amadou et Mariam, the Blind Couple of Mali, who started creating music in a school for blind musicians set up by Stevie Wonder. Personally, though, I'd suggest beginning your Malian musical journey with Mamadou Sidibe. Sidibe's Nacama was just released, and it features an almost seamless blend of blues licks and African rhythms. It's one of the most pleasant albums I've heard in years.


Sidibe has been performing music in Europe, North America, and his native Africa since the early 1980s. He was instrumental in transforming Malian music from its religious and sacred origins to more contemporary terrain (meaning songs about love, politics and daily life). He's performed with artists from Cuba, the United States, France and many other countries. In other words, he's been around, and this album demonstrates this very well. There is an effortless blending of musical styles, tempos and even languages throughout. More importantly, he follows one of the truest of musical rules: keep it simple, stupid.


Take "Nemalon". There are really only three basic parts to this song: the kameln'goni (a sort of guitar) melody, the very African rhythm (at times parallel to the melody, at times in contradiction to it); and the vocals, which are sung in, I think, Bambara (the main language in Mali) and English (Sidibe's partner, Vanessa Janora Sidibe, sings the English choruses). These three elements blend together to create a song that is, in fact, quite complex. It combines not only languages but also musical sensibilities (African and rhythm and blues). This is a great example of how African music has managed to incorporate the influences and styles of popular music in the United States and elsewhere in order to expand and broaden their own traditional music styles. The results in "Nemalon" are beautiful, lilting, and even a bit hypnotic.


The other songs on this album use these same sparse tools to create similar, fascinating effects. "N'goni Kadi" is a complex instrumental, featuring the kameln'goni; "Fula" has a great rhythm (using a metallic xylophone-like instrument, shakers, bass, and some other, fuzzy instrument); and the title song features some wonderful vocal work by both Sidibes (including Vanessa's cryptic English lyrics, "It's the real world / Destiny"). There isn't a bad song in the bunch here, and each one offers a different take on the same simple elements Sidibe uses to create all his work.


Perhaps what I like best about this album is that it features largely acoustic instruments; there aren't any electric guitars (or even electric kameln'gonis) here. Since Sidibe's instrumentation is so essential—and dominates so many of the songs—I sense a close kinship between this album and the music of, say, Leadbelly, early Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and other classic country blues artists. Of course, Sidibe's music is entirely different from the work of those American artists. Sidibe plays Malian music, where rhythm is central to all facets of life; his kameln'goni is usually the melodic accompaniment to the intricate rhythms. However, at the center of his music is the same sensibility that you'll find in Muddy Waters: a sense of music as a tool for the recreation of everyday life into something special, even magical.


There aren't many good blues albums being made in America today; but there are plenty in Africa. Nacama is one of the best of recent years.


Reviewed by: Michael Heumann Reviewed on: 2004-12-01

LA CURIOSITA (Glamour Magazine Online, Italy, June 2005)
Se Amadou et Mariam sono due super star, nel Mali si fa largo anche un'altra coppia (artistica e di fatto) che come loro mescola blues e tradizione locale. Si tratta di Mamadou et Vanessa che si sono auto-prodotti un cd solo strumentale: Nacama, in vendita su Amazon.

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