Issa Bagayogo is a kamel n'goni player from Mali who burst on the world music scene in the late 1990s, with his first two releases Sya, and Timbuktu. He is known for his compelling mix of electronica with Malian roots music, earning him the moniker "techno Issa".
Born in 1961 in a rural community south of Bamako, Issa first learned to play the daro, an instrument made of iron and used to encourage the workers in the fields to work harder. By his early teens he took up the kamel ngoni, a six-stringed harp adapted from the original ngoni, a three-stringed hunter's harp. By the early 90s Issa moved to Bamako to pursue a musical career. After several false starts he found the sound he wanted with the help of Yves Wernert and Phillippe Berthier, founders of a recording studio in Bamako known as Mali K7. Issa’s signature sound incorporated traditional Malian music with the modern sounds of dub, rap, and tape loops, creating a unique and modern classic of Malian techno beat sound. The net result sounds acoustic, yet is imbued with tape loops and dance floor beats that audiences find irresistible.
Following Sya Issa released Timbuktu, a continuation of the techno sound for which he is celebrated. The combination of lush horn grooves with the laid-back bluesy ngoni creates a hynotic beat highlighted by Issa’s rap-like vocals that play counter-point to the horns and ngoni. The emerging sound captivates the listener, and carries him onto the dance floor whether in Bamako or Los Angeles. The recently-released Tassoumakan (“Voice of Fire”) surges forward on the crest of this techno wave, harnessed by Issa’s dusky vocals and the sublime guitar of Mama Sissoko, carrying the lucky audience to new grooves with “an uncanny, organic vibe that redefines ancient vs modern as ancient is modern” (Billboard).