Habib Koité is not Mali’s most expressive singer or most innovative guitarist, but he’s a jack of all trades who warbles pretty well, picks his guitar uniquely, composes memorable songs, and leads a solid band. Here’s why you should care: While many Malian guitarists are known for their mastery of their tribes’ strumming vernacular, Koité has become adept at a number of styles. For him, the common thread is the sound of traditional Malian stringed instruments. Koité seeks to capture those warm sonics on his guitar via the pentatonic scale, and by utilizing open tunings. Whether one understands what he’s doing technically, there’s no denying the beauty in how his guitar notes and vocals interact with the lush sounds of the xylophone-like balafon and the insistent pulse of his group’s rhythm section.
HABIB KOITÉ PERFORMS AT 8 P.M. AT THE BARNS AT WOLF TRAP, 1635 TRAP RoaD, VIENNA. $25. (703) 255-1900.