African Mountain Blues: Africa to Appalachia is a residency that, as part the African Mountain Blues series, brings together: from Mali, Bassekou Kouyaté and Amy Sacko; and from the USA, James Leva and his group Purgatory Mountain (Matt Olwell, Al Tharp, Danny Knicely), Corey Harris and Otis Taylor.

The emphasis of this residency and subsequent concert performance is to trace the roots of Appalachian Music back to West Africa and explore in a contemporary context the common ground existing between the two musical cultures and traditions. The spotlight here is on the N’goni, the West African instrument that was transformed in the Appalachian Mountains into the modern-day banjo.

Bassekou Kouyaté is recognized as perhaps the greatest contemporary N’goni master in the world today. Amy Sacko, Bassekou’s wife, is an electric and explosive singer known as the “Tina Turner of Mali.”

James Leva is a fiddler, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the Appalachian county of Rockbridge, Virginia. His deep appreciation and respect for the history of Mountain music and culture is the foundation that fuels his exploration of the Celtic and African roots of Appalachian music.

With the addition of Corey Harris, one of the world’s great interpreters of blues and roots music, and of Otis Taylor, this project was the maiden voyage and model for the subsequent projects in the African Mountain Blues series.