Snap Sounds: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba

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Four ngonis -- that's a lot of ngonis! Bassekou Kouyate -- Malian maestro of the stringed instrument which not only calls up the resounding Middle Eastern oud, the plucky Appalachian banjo, and the freewheelin' Greek zither -- has built a legendary sound around a quartet of ngonis (not as dirty as it sounds, but quite sexy), and has just released a bumptious and beguiling album, I Speak Fula (Sub Pop). He'll be bringing his multitudinous band and joyfully haunting sound to Slim's on Thu/11.

Expect high-spirited fingerplay and duelling ngonis aplenty, as Kouyate calls up visions of his Motherland and shows off the bonafide chops he's honed while jamming with Bela Fleck, Bonnie Raitt, Vieux Farka Toure, and Bono.

For me, though, it's the absolutely wondrous voice of his wife, Amy Sacko, that really tugs me by the ear into this music. Her bright tones sheer off into rasps or soar into rebellious calls at heart-stopping moments. What's the word for wanting to smile through tears? That's the word I'd describe her with, and yes I'm totally crushed out. Several times on the new album Kouyate and Sacko's voices mesh in a playful interplay that shimmers with broad calm, the calm of true partners. Live, real sparks should fly, ngonis or no.

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba
Thu/18, 7:30pm, $20 advance/$25
Slim's
333 11th St., SF.
www.slims-sf.com

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