A Big Night in Bamako

A lot of us have Followed In Jimmy’s Wake; but not many with the style of my friend John Gilmer. Known to his online friends as PJ or Pirate John. John is a Road Dawg Extraordinaire, and always good for a great story or obscure tidbit of Buffett Knowledge. Like the thread of information he started over at Buffett World recently, entitled Fascinating History on the Hotel Buffet (referring to Jimmy’s new album due out in December). I’m going to share a bit of that posting here, but go by Buffett World for the whole Thread and additional photos.

<< The title of the new album (and song) were conceived during a trip to the “Festival in the Desert,” a music festival that takes place annually near Timbuktu, Mali. It was there that Jimmy ran across a place called “Buffet Hotel,” somewhere that Jimmy describes as a “train station-slash-whorehouse.” >>

I realize that the adventure travelers are pretty rare these days in deference to the Hawaiian-shirt-in-Florida crowd, but there was an article recently in one of the British auto magazines wherein they drove a Land Rover Discover IV (LR 4 to us Norte Americanos) to Timbuktu. Their conclusion: really hot and dusty 2 hard days of travel to a small town that is mystical yet dusty, dirty, and not to Euro standards.

Oh well … one writer’s opinion …


The Wiki article about Timbuktu at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timbuktu is fascinating.

— legendary as a center of Saharan trade and African academics; arguably the first university on the planet was founded in Timbuktu
— ancient texts – many from the 12th Century and pre-Islamic times – are kept by families an institutions in the area. There are believed to be 300,000 to 700,000 such texts, on a range of academic subjects, many written in ancient Greek. They are just now being digitized and cataloged, and available for study
— a population of only 32,000 exists these days in the town of Timbuktu
— as recently as 1890 perhaps only a dozen Europeans had ever seen Timbuktu


Reading a bit further, it appears that the Buffet Hotel (“Buffet Hotel de la Gare de Bamako”) is best known as the place that was the original venue for a legendary Malian band called the Rail Band (more formally called the Super Rail Band Of The Buffet Hotel Del La Gare De Bamako). An advertisement for the band’s recordings at http://worldmusiccentral.org/article.ph … band_dioba describes the hotel as ” the major train station and center of after-hours fun and business deals in Mali’s capital city” and the band’s music as being “Latin-laced dance tunes, Africanized soul and funk, songs that bespoke Mali’s development as a post-colonial nation.”

Fascionating stuff. It will be interesting to see if and when Jimmy brings over the band or some members of the band to perform in the USA.


“Every Parrothead’s wet dream …”


A Big Night in Bamako

The night began with a stop at the Buffet Hotel de la Gare, an old train station where the Super Rail Band was playing a party organized by Chris Blackwell (the founder of Island Records) and, yes, none other than Jimmy Buffet (sic). They were in town with an entourage on the way to the Festival in the Desert, and had planned a dream night in Bamako. The Super Rail Band is a Malian institution that started over 30 years ago and has built an international reputation by fusing Manding and Afro-Cuban dance music. In the band’s early years, its members included two of West Africa’s greatest singers, Salif Keita and Mory Kante. The line-up on this night featured long time lead guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, who riffed off another guitarist and built momentum with cyclical rhythms and distorted leads. The drummer had the bassiest snare sound I’ve ever heard, hitting it tastefully and hard. A percussionist chimed in with cowbell hits as three singing and dancing front men went to town. Their amps were cranked to overdrive in the customary Malian street style, their incredible range masked in feedback bordering on that of Slash’s guitar.

Jimmy Buffet opened the show in the old train station office, the ticket counter having now been converted to a bar. It was every parrothead’s wet dream, a group of 30 or 40 Malians and assorted Americans and Europeans sitting in the tropical heat drinking beer and tequila, singing along with Buffet on “Margaritaville.” For the encore, he downed a glass of tequila and strummed Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” improvising lines about trying to avoid jail time in Bamako. After his few song set, we all danced around ecstatically to the Rail Band. They played for an hour and a half or so and then we caught taxis to Le Hogan, where Toumani Diabate was about to play with his band, the Symmetric Orchestra


This is from the article at http://www.afropop.org/multi/feature/ID … Mali:+2007

Jimmy singing:



This is the Hotel Buffet:



Great stuff!


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