Back in 1995, my dad got me a birthday gift: an Encarta Encyclopedia 95 CD-ROM. I spent hours every day just surfing it, learning all kinds of random things. Most interestingly, I got the opportunity to look up music samples from all over the world. One particular sample that I found captivating was a song called "Jungou" by late Malian musician Ali Farka Toure, the father of Mali Blues.
I then found out that Ali Farka Toure is also known as the father of Mali Blues. It's a style of blues music influenced by Delta Blues, which he was exposed to when he was visiting the US in the past. Here is an interview with American Blues musician Correy Harris:
Source: "The Blues" documentary series produced by Martin Scorsese
Ali Farka Toure sang in a few languages, and I could recognize Tamashek, Songhay, and Bambara. He is a major influence on many, many musical artists out there. There are a number of examples:
Afel Bocoum - "Niger"; I believe this song is in Songhay.
Tinariwen - "Lulla"
Tinariwen are a Tuareg musical group whose members are from Northern Mali. The members of this group met in Libya in the 70's, where they were refugees after an uprising in Northern Mali. Some of them even participated in the conflict. Tinariwen particularly play a variety called Tuareg Blues, though they are heavily influenced by Ali Farka Toure's music as well.
Boureima "Vieux" Farka Touré - "Wosoubour"
Vieu Farka Toure is the the eldest son of Ali Farka Toure. He has a few good songs that I like, but Wosoubour is my personal favorite. It has the bluesiest feel compared to the others. While his style is similar to his father's, it reflects heavier influence from more contemporary and popular music of the time.
Songhoy Blues - "Nick"
Songhoy Blues are another more recent Blues group from Mali. Songhoy Blues was also formed by refugees as in the case of Tinariwen. However, they were displaced due to another conflict in Northern Mali between the government and Islamist extremists (who unsurprisingly "frown on" music, if you know what I mean).
Another Songhoy Blues song that I like is "Al Hassidi Terei", in part because of its music video (which (WARNING!) may induce motion sickness in some of those susceptible to it, so you have been warned). It's really good though.
Bassekou Kouyate - "Désert Nianafing" feat. Amy Sacko, Afel Bocoum & Ahmed ag Kaedi
Consider this a very small sample. Thanks to the internet generally, and YouTube especially, you can look up even more related music.
Part II: Gnawa
Nuru Kane - "Bambala"