Musician moves to Mali to make music: 'it feels to me like a first album' (w/audio)

Adam Klein had to move across the ocean, to Africa, to reinvigorate his music. Courtesy Adam Klein

Adam Klein had to let go when the plane landed in Bamako, Mali.

“I remember thinking I was letting go of myself, letting go of any certainties I had,” he said. “Letting go of any adult identity I had at that point because I knew I was entering a new culture and I was going to show up and practically be like a baby.”

From that initial experience with the Peace Corps, the singer-songwriter returned to the African nation to produce an album set to be released later this year.

“I feel very fortunate to have been in Mali because I fell in love with the place and it has become a very important part of my life,” Klein said.

While recording, Klein brought along Jason Miller — who is set to release a documentary of the journey.

The entire album was made in the native Mande style of music, which is tribal and rustic; and a majority of the songs will be performed in the African language Bambara, with a few songs in English.

“I wanted to try my best to blend the music that I have done [in Athens] and present my attempt at the very rootsy and acoustic Mande music,” Klein said.[audio:|titles=Adam Klein interview]

Mande can be done in many ways, as it is a style that has progressed over the centuries.

Klein, in an attempt to capture some part of that, brought in Malian musicians to fully get an authentic sound to his songs.

“I wanted [the album] to be shaped by the players and musicians,” he said. “I wanted to have the Malian players and their reactions to the songs. In some ways it feels to me like a first album, because it is my first experience recording Mande music, and certainly recording an album in Mali.”

Klein only had a couple days to record the songs, but the artists were able to cope with the fast schedule.

To add to the difficulties, the first studio that Klein had planned to record the album in had already fallen through.

Also, the production of the album was done fast, requiring Klein to get an Athens producer to re-master the album.

“They were very fast there,” he said. “It really is instinctual — they come up with the part on the spot. It was kind of mind-blowing to me, because I thought they did some really neat stuff.”

Not all of the songs Klein wrote in Mali made it onto the album, however: some have made it into his other projects, but this does not mean these songs will never see the light of day.

“These songs are still getting revisited,” he said. “They didn’t make it on the first album or the second or third. But they are still there. If I feel they are a quality and fit with a certain set of songs, I’m willing to go back to them even if it’s something I wrote in 2003 or 2004.”

Though Klein had to let go after the flight to Bamako, what he gained long term was something more valuable.

"It wasn't forgetting everything," he said. "[It was] allowing myself to enter that new space in a childlike way and be open to learning and receiving and to sharing and to not be frustrated to the challenges that would arise."


Where: Melting Point

When: 8 p.m.

Price: $5 (adv.), $7 (door)

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