Concert preview: Habib Koite at the Lincoln Theater

By Columbus Alive
From the February 6, 2014 edition

Despite all the turmoil Malian guitarist Habib Koite has witnessed in his African homeland, including a 2012 French military operation designed to oust Islamic militants in the north of the country, he remains optimistic for the future of his people.

“Here you are…my new album for you, which again reflects the diversity of my country,” he writes on the inside jacket of his latest album, Soo. “I still have hope it will come back as before.”

The music reflects this kinder, gentler viewpoint, Koite gracefully ushering listeners through songs like the sun-kissed “Deme” and “Khafole,” a folksy, acoustic number that comes on like an African lullaby. Singing in his native tongue (and on occasion in English), the musician avoids subjects like poverty, protest and political strife, preferring to focus his attention on, in his own words, “a gentle message about the pleasure of being at home.” True, there are times it’d be nice to hear the musician raise his voice, but it remains an impressive feat to find serenity living among such chaos.