Released 22 August 1999

  1. Nostalgie - Nostalgia
  2. The Ta'aba - Leaving
  3. The Idjo - Truth
  4. Tama - To Walk
  5. Dambe - Merit
  6. Soninke - An African People
  7. Boula - Descendants Of A Warrior
  8. Koko - Everything
  9. A.T.T. (Amadou Toumani Toure)
  10. Ta'aba (Radio Mix)

Liner notes

‘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 not-Über-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.

"I enjoy working with beautiful voices.  Music is an accompaniment really, and the thing with this album is that from the start we had a collection of very good songs to record." Sam Mills

“We wanted the timbre of acoustic instruments without falling into folk fetishism, without conservatism,” says Sam. “Strangely enough, electronic music seems to become dated so quickly, though I love it and love to hear remixes for instance.  I think this album will last a very long time without sounding retro.”

“Something that is powerful and resonant about this record is that it’s all played live, says Sam. “It’s not digitally edited, looped, time-stretched or artificially distressed.  We also used a very special studio in Paris called La Salle which has an old analogue machine, vintage microphones, suits of armour and so on.  We wanted a sound that had some warmth, which maybe was a little rough at the edges but which conveyed the acoustic ensemble feeling.”

Tom Diakite’s instruments include percussion, kora and mainly the donso n’goni: a variant of the guitar-like n’goni, made in his hometown; it’s held like a kora but has less strings and a deep and bassy range. “Only a few of us play it.  I also use a special type of sanza, the flembola, which is more like a calebasse with iron sticks rather than a small ordinary sanza.”

Tom’s history as choreographer and multi-instrumentalist, with the likes of Salif Keita and Leon Keita all across West Africa and Europe, don’t overview his skills as a lyricist. “In Africa, a song as a narrative has to tell something,’ he says. “It has to be useful to a certain degree, somehow instructive without being too serious.  I sing in honour of a very special person who stands as an example to all: as the griot used to praise the virtue of his patron; as the people in Kaba— where I, a stranger, was treated like a king; as Amadou Toumani Toure, a military who brought democracy to Mali; as the Soninkyes, all coming from the same ancestor, for whom the word ‘solidarity’ seems to have been invented.”

Three songs recall Tom’s years of travelling: one should walk to learn new viewpoints, but should never forget where he is coming from, nor who was left behind (‘Tama’); ‘Taaba’, which Sam describes as a piece of African existentialism, about returning to the self through the love that one person brings to another, as well as journeying out from the local to the universal and then coming home; and ‘Nostalgie’, a beautiful song of love and friendship which captures the feeling of loss of a departed one.

‘Idjo’ deals with the seeking of truth in the respect of others.  “There are three truths in Africa: my truth, your truth, and the Truth.  Someone who is right, is right; but someone imposing his reality is wrong.  In Europe, one has to be very old to be a sage,” says Tom.  “But we may find some African sage in his thirties and some really stupid old man!”

A last word about the third member.  Exuberant when it comes to playing, very discreet and humble in his life, Djanuno Dabo has shown his percussion maestria with countless African artists including Alpha Blondy and Toure Kunda.  “Percussion is the core of Tama’s sound, and Djanuno sounds fantastic!” says Tom. “On ‘Boula’, his work on the claypot really makes the song.  He brings something more ‘popular’, less austere than traditional Malian rhythms.”  He also plays the guitar and sings, which could be a new aspect for Tama to develop in the future.  Expect the unexpected!

Photo credit: Robert Leslie.


  • 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)
  • Gorgeous songs and infectious grooves...the musicians draw on a wealth of live experience to create a compelling and memorable show.’ Rhythm (USA)



Tom Diakite: vocals, donzo n’goni, kora, sanza calebasse, percussion
Djanuno Dabo: percussion
Sam Mills: guitar

Also featuring:
Noel Ekwabi: bass
Assitan Keita: backing vocals
Janka Diabate: backing vocals
Leandru Acocha: piano, keyboards
Aly Wague: flute
Samba Moctar: drums
Vincent Segal: cello
Cesar Anot: bass (Nostalgie), backing vocals (Koko)
Annick Tangora: French vocals (Ta’aba) Cheick Tidiane Seck: hammond organ (Nostalgie)
Mehdi Haddab: oud (Soninke)
Farhat: violin (Koko, Ta’aba)
Fred Olick: distortion guitar (Ta’aba Radio Mix)

All compositions written by Tom Diakite, Sam Mills and Djanuno Dabo.

Produced by Tama. Recorded by Matt’gineer Moscardo-Saurat. Recorded at Studio de l’Aire, Paris. Track 1 mixed by Rob Keyloch at the Sound Studio, London. Tracks 5, 9, 10 mixed by Tom Diakite and Etev Op at Studio Caracal, Paris. Tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 mixed by Arabella Rodriguez and Sam Mills at Red Bus, London.

A Real World Design. Graphic design by Tristan Manco. Photography by Robert Leslie. Introduction by Laurent Briffaux. Lyric translations by Phillipe Chauvin, Tom Diakite and Sam Mills.

All tracks copyright control. Special thanks to Diaby Key, Jean Berger, Famille Sotiqui Kouyate, Mama Tom, Koko Kawanami, Monsieur Ponyatoff, Denis at Cazatronics, Mecatwin, Court House Facilities, LN Technology, Cesar Anot, Paban Das Baul, Rob Keyloch, Marianne Rollet, Susheela Raman, Patrice, Julie, Yusuf, Matthieu, Iyo, and all at Real World.

Further Listening

  • Espace


    Released 29 September 2002

    Tama brings together three extraordinary singer-songwriters based in Paris with one maverick Londoner: Tom Diakite and Mamani Keita from Mali; Djanuno Dabo from Guinea; and guitarist Sam Mills. An album of beautiful songs, deep grooves and rich instrumentation that will make your heart melt and your pulse speed.
  • New Dawn


    Released 20 July 1997

    A circle of singers sit on decorated pillows, drinking sweet tea. The atmosphere is intense but relaxed as they slowly warm up, singing their way through old songs of love and death, of the beautiful lover with the long neck, of desire and of the sensible advice of the wise old men.

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