Tama, 1999

'Expect the unexpected': what else could be the underlying motto of the Tama project than this true piece of Malian philosophy, taken from the song 'Koko'?

The Tama record, 'Nostalgie', came about when Malian Tom Diakite, Londoner Sam Mills, and Djanuno Dabo of Guinea Bissau met whilst playing with Bengali maestro Paban Das Baul. According to Sam, "We had some spare time booked in a studio and played a few songs which were impromptu but sounded really good and were enough for us to convince Real World to record an album."

Mainly based on singer Tom Diakite's repertoire, the record displays a mixture of rhythms and flavours from West Africa, with a definite input from European music. Songs of the migrant, they capture musical influences from lands visited and departed. Tom says, "Originally I came from the same part of Mali as Oumou Sangare and Nawa Doumbia, the Wasoulou, and the music I learnt there was already a mix - something different from the mainstream Malian tradition. Now I use aspects of the tradition like the pentatonic scale, adding some blues and non-Malian elements both in the music and in the instrumentation - with the guitar, piano, cello and oud."

As the name 'Tama' (a Bambara word meaning 'to walk') suggests, the band's approach was to collect years of travelling memories rather than trying to represent or revive a traditional folklore. "With that kind of concept," explains Sam, "we could produce the album collaboratively, each bringing in something from their own experience. Though it has journeyed, the music retains an earthiness. I don't think it's de-racinated or de-natured; it recreates its own territories and space." As Tom sings in the track 'Tama', you don't forget where you came from when you venture somewhere new.

The producer Sam Mills is known to Real World via 'Real Sugar', his album with Baul singer Paban. Former member of 23 Skidoo, a pop band famous in the '80s indie scene for using ethnic rhythms and sounds, he went on to study anthropology and spent three years in Japan and two in Bangladesh, before finishing a Phd in Sufism and Mysticism in Bengal. His music (including soundtracks for the TV series 'Sadhus') experiments with textures and ambiences that he likes to see in the context of songs.


  • ‘…Nostalgie gives a new and intriguing perspective on Malian music. This mainly acoustic album has a depth of melody and an unusual instrumental colour that make it compulsive listening from the start…and promises a bright future for Tama.’ Songlines (UK)
  • ‘…hugely accessible and multi-playable.’ Froots (UK)
  • ‘This is rhythmic, playful, uplifting music.’ Top (UK)
  • ‘Together they play music that is both gentle and passionate… acknowledging ties to home and culture... they join together on the journey to new possibilities.’
  • ‘...gorgeous songs and infectious grooves...the musicians draw on a wealth of live experience to create a compelling and memorable show.’ Rhythm (USA)
  • ‘Unlike some fusions of world flavors Tama’s music does not sound contrived. This recording has a warm, living and breathing quality to it…’
  • ‘…this set has the distinct snap, crackle and pop of a rousing BAND – and better yet, a good one recorded live…It’s travelling music, as befits a band whose name means “to walk” – on the move from Mali and Guinea direct to your bloodstream.’ Escape