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Markus James

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Markus James is originally from Virginia and the DC area, where his first musical memory, from the age of four, is of an old, blind blues singer he saw many times playing on a sidewalk. He first encountered West African stringed music at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival when he was mesmerized by the Gambian Kora player and singer, Alhaji Bai Konte. Markus settled in Northern California, writing and recording in rock and R&B styles while also pursuing his interests in African, Indian, and Gamelan music. He travelled in West Africa and also Haiti, studying traditional ensemble drumming, before first visiting Mali in 1994, when he made his way to the village of Niafounke to meet the legendary “Malian Bluesman”, Ali Farka Toure. It was then that Markus first recorded original, Blues-based songs with Wassoulou musician Solo Sidibe, which became the “where you wanna be” album, released 6 years later. He has produced several programs for PRI’s Afropop Worldwide, notably “Ali Farka Toure: Live From Niafounke”. Markus has returned to Mali many times, where he has written and recorded blues-influenced music with traditional Malian musicians, notably his 2002 release “nightbird”, and 2005’s album and film “Timbuktoubab”, which have been warmly received by critics in the US and Europe. He has performed at the Festival In The Desert, near Timbuktu, in 2003, 2004, and 2006.

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