Generally in komo, men become true adults quite late. Before circumcision, the adolescent joins the komo, and for three or four months undergoes tests of character, such as leaping across fire, passing through a forest inhabited by lions and hyenas, or going a whole day without food and water.
In the second phase, the true initiation, both his knowledge and behavior are subject to scrutiny before he is allowed to enter into the mystery of the komo. He gives his word never to betray the secret society or to reveal its mysteries; this is why the Bambara say: "When you join the komo, you never leave".
When you mention the word komo to Lobi Traoré, his expression goes blank as if he hadn't heard you and there's no point insisting! He cannot and must not speak of the komo!
At 16, he crossed the river and arrived in Ségou to join a folk group as a Bambara singer. He then left for Bamako and played in another similar outfit before meeting his first musical master, who gave him a guitar.
Three years later he discovered the Djata Band, Zani Diabaté's orchestra, then the rage in Bamako. This was one of the first Malian orchestras to tour France in the early '80s to sing the Bambara repertoire. (Mali includes many ethnic groups, and in each musical formation there are often several singers, each addressing their own ethnic public, be they bozo (fishermen), peuhl (shepherd people) or Songhai (from the Timbuktu region).
When Lobi Traoré started his solo career, he played for weddings and in bars. It was at the Bozo, an important (now closed) live music venue in Bamako famous for its beer, that the public discovered and appreciated his Bambara blues in the early '90s. Since then he has recorded three albums and toured extensively in Europe, Canada and Africa. He also met the Paris blues harmonica player Vincent Bucher, who accompanies him often and has helped him develop the material for his Duga album.» (National Geographic, courtesy Calabash Music)
French bio here
French bio here
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