“In an age of endless crossover between most conceivable forms of music, it’s but small surprise that a Caucasian man from Virginia is making blues with West African witch doctors.”
Markus James’ first musical memory, from the age of four, is of an old, blind blues singer he saw several times playing on a DC sidewalk. Growing up in Virginia and the DC area, his love of Blues led him from British Invasion to the traditional music of West Africa, which he first heard at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Markus traveled many times to West Africa, in particular to Mali, where he recorded 5 albums of original, Blues-based music with traditional musicians, featuring Hamma Sankare, the long-time calabash player with Grammy-winning Malian guitarist and singer Ali Farka Toure, who was Markus’ friend and inspiration for many years. Markus’ Mali-based albums have received widespread critical acclaim in the US and Europe, and his touring ensemble, Markus James and The Wassonrai, featuring players from Guinea, West Africa, Trinidad, and the US have performed at numerous festivals and concert series, including Lincoln Center. NPR’s “All Things Considered” called the sound “rock with a West African twist”. Markus’ award-winning documentary film, “Timbuktoubab”, about his collaborations with 3 master musicians in Timbuktu, Mali, was seen on satellite and PBS stations around the country. While touring several times in Mississippi, Markus connected with 4 North Mississippi Hill Country drummers, and this led to collaborations including his critically acclaimed “Head For The Hills” album and performances at Blues Festivals in the US, Canada, and Europe. “Blues music comes from Mississippi, but its roots go back to West Africa. Some say that if you go back far enough, we all come from Africa”.