Terry: Mamadou Koïta’s praise for friendship and gratitude

Interview by Elena Mandolini

Additional Information

Mamadou Koïta is a singer-songwriter, virtuoso percussionist and heir to a musical tradition handed down from generation to generation. A very active musician, he has already performed numerous times across the country and elsewhere, and over the years has joined forces with several musicians who are also well known on the Montreal and Quebec music scene.

Tomorrow, Mamadou Koïta will be launching his first career album, in what promises to be one of the most exhilarating concerts of his career! This first opus, entitled Terry, brings together songs that continue the storytelling lineage from which he comes from while tackling subjects that are close to his heart and that touch him more personally.

On the eve of this concert launch, PAN M 360 spoke with Mamadou Koïta about his album, his inspirations, and the people who have accompanied him since the start of his musical career in Quebec.

PAN M 360: Hello! You come from a musical family, correct?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: Yes, I come from a family of griots. When we say griots, we mean people who give out messages. It was the griots who played for the village chiefs. In my family, my grandfather did it, then my father, then me. And it was these people who gave messages on behalf of the village chief: if things were going well, if things were going badly, if a child was lost…

PAN M 360: What led you to create this project, Terry? What is the origin of this project?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: It’s a bit of a family story that led me to this project. Today, I’m a father and a son. In my family, everyone is a musician, my brothers, my sisters… Everyone sings, everyone dances. Making music wasn’t a question, but a project like this, I wasn’t expecting it at all!

PAN M 360: So Terry is your first album?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: Yes, it’s the first time I’ve been able to work in this way in Quebec, the first time I’ve been able to do an album launch. I’m so happy! I don’t know how to describe it. And I have to thank everyone who helped me make this project possible.

PAN M 360: How did you meet the people you collaborate with, and how did you come to work with them?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: I arrived in Quebec, Canada, in 2011. A lot of people helped me get here. I was invited on tours, and when I came here I really liked it. And then there was Nuits d’Afrique, which gave me a lot of support. Since my arrival, not a year has gone by without me doing a concert with them. For me, it’s a real opportunity. And then there are all my musician friends I’ve met who have also worked very hard and helped me with my album.

PAN M 360: So the title of your album, Terry, is a reference to all these people…

MAMADOU KOÏTA: In our language, in Bambara, Terry means friendship. Without friendship, nothing works. That’s why I named the album Terry.

PAN M 360: When we listen to your album, we can hear that tradition you were talking about, but there are also instruments that sound very modern. There are electric guitars, synthesizers… Why did you want to mix these two elements?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: My father was a traditional musician, so I learned from him. When I travelled and heard music from the West, I also wanted to mix things up. Instruments and languages. I wanted to give my music a different colour.

For me, music knows no boundaries. So guitar, balafon, kora, goni or djembe, for me, all go together. Because everyone loves the vibrations they give off. So I tried to do something different from my father. My father never did that, so I tried.

PAN M 360: Would you say that’s what characterizes your music?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: Yes, because a lot of people can relate to my music. Because, in theory, that’s what friendship is all about. Without friendship, there’s no love. And without friendship, we could never work together. You have to be able to get along to work together. So the album, with all these different sounds mixed together, represents something very important for me in my life, and I hope it will be just as important for the people who hear the album.

PAN M 360: What other themes inspired you to compose your album?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: I often talk about adventure in my compositions. Adventure, because I left my country and came to Quebec. And I’ve met a lot of good people here, and I’ve learned a lot too. My song “Wawana” is about that. I say, “Mom, I know it’s very hard to be away, don’t cry, I’ll go back, so say a good prayer for me in your heart.”

Often I find myself thinking about things I don’t like to see, for example, the war at the moment, which is everywhere, everywhere. Everyone’s protecting themselves and doing everything they can to avoid finding themselves at war too. Some of my songs also come from these thoughts.

PAN M 360: Basically, this is a very personal album. You tell us about your life, your journey, your thoughts…

MAMADOU KOÏTA: Yes, and also about the things I’ve seen and experienced here that weren’t there in my country. You have to learn to be patient in life. You can’t close in on yourself. You have to be open to others. For example, when I arrived here, I didn’t understand the Quebec language very well. I think it’s really incredible to have managed to get through that and to be able to teach people things here.

PAN M 360: Let’s talk about the launch concert tomorrow. How did you imagine it?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: I can’t wait! The way I see it, it’s a big open door for me and for the musicians who helped me. I can’t just talk about myself, I have to talk about the musicians with me too. This is the first time in my life that I’ve done this. And I hope it goes well and that people enjoy the day as much as I do because I’m happy here.

PAN M 360: Can you tell us a bit more about tomorrow’s concert?

MAMADOU KOÏTA: I’d like to keep it a surprise, but I can say a bit about it! There will be surprises that people don’t expect. I hope that everyone can come out, Quebecers, Canadians, whatever, and support me and all the musicians. And really, this is the first time in my life that’s happened. And one thing’s for sure: there’s going to be dancing! We’ll have to fasten our seatbelts!

PAN M 360: Thank you very much for your time, and I wish you an excellent concert and a great launch!

MAMADOU KOÏTA: Thank you! I’d like to thank everyone who helped me make this record, and I invite everyone to come and dance and enjoy these first days of the album launch.

Read here Frédéric Cardin’s review of Terry on PAN M 360

Mamadou Koïta will launch his album Terry on Friday, November 10 at 9 pm in concert at Club Balattou. Information and tickets HERE!

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