My very first exposure to Malian photographer Malick Sidibé was this single photograph on the cover of a collection of music from various countries in West Africa from the 60s and 70s.
The photo was a standout and was probably at least half the reason for the purchase. Never let anyone tell you that packaging doesn’t count. In any event, the photo could have been very anywhere in that era, right? From Baltimore to Bamako or wherever.
Several years later I was showing the CDs to a girlfriend who had grown up in Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Burkina Faso and she mentioned it was one of her favorite photos from Malick Sidibe, a name I’d never heard. She proceeded to pull out several coffee table books she had brought back from her father’s house in Abidjan. Color me ignorant but it’s still startling to me sometimes that there are so many worlds in this world and there are stars, and heroes and musical acts that sell out a stadium in ten minutes. It boggles me sometimes that for all I pride myself in having seen, I’ve seen very little at all.
The books held me captive for days, from Bamako nightlife to the portrait photography, to the mod fashion to just the sheer energy. He died a couple years later and there were obits here on public radio and in the odd newspaper. It’s a big old world, really, as small as it seems sometimes.
So just in the spirit of things, we’ll throw in the music as well.