"When I was very young, I used to take my blind grandmother to
ceremonies, because she was a singer. Thats how I learned to sing, listening to her
when she sang at weddings and naming ceremonies. Later, when I sang in the classroom, all
the teachers would gather and listen to me. Once, I started singing outside in a crowd,
and it really cheered people up. At that moment I thought: Moulaye, you really can
make it as a singer!
"I left school when I was 12. And when I
was 14, I began to follow a well-known singer called Lobi Traoré. Then I started working
for him, and all along I was listening to the way he was singing, and learning from him.
He sings mainly blues, and I tried to pick things up bit-by-bit. Then I made plans to form
my own band. I didnt want to work for someone else long-term: I wanted to make my
own money with my own band. While I was looking for people to play with me, I sang at
weddings and naming ceremonies.
"All my songs are traditional. We use
traditional instruments and rhythms: tom-toms, drums, and xylophones. I used to go round
to see all the other bands playing, and I would bribe them to let me sing so that more and
more people would hear what a good singer I am. I also used to go to someone to learn more
of the traditional songs and tunes. I kept looking for the best players, and gradually I
called them together. The band began with me and two musicians, but by 1995 we had grown
and become more popular and well-known.
"I called the band The Snail Band to be
traditional: theres a childrens game where the kids flick snail shells and
they spin like tops. When theyre spinning, they have great energy and dynamism. I
wanted my band to have that kind of quality.
"Our work is traditional. This is my first
love. I was born into traditional music, its what I learned from the very beginning.
I just love my tradition and I want other people to know it and come to love it too. That
is my aim and my hope.
"Many young people are into other forms of
music -- reggae, rap, all sorts -- but when we rehearse, a huge crowd always gathers, so
we know that what we do is popular.
"At the moment we get all our money from performing at weddings and naming
ceremonies. We dont have other jobs, we all live by our music.
"If I want to work on a new song, I go up into the hills by myself and just
spend time thinking, waiting to feel inspired. I take a small cassette recorder with me to
record words and tunes if they come to me. I compose new songs, but they are always in the
traditional style. I play the recordings to the band, and we develop the music together. I
dont know how to write very well, so I always just sing it straight onto cassette.
"I sing about my own feelings and
experiences. Its all linked to poverty and how it feels to be poor. I honestly feel
that Ive been psychologically branded by poverty. I lost my mum when I was young,
and then my father couldnt afford to pay my school fees so I didnt get much
schooling, and that hurt me very much. So, now that Im beginning to get some
recognition and beginning to be successful, I want all my listeners to know the pain I
"In the year 2000 I would hope to be a star, in West Africa and all over the