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There are also two strange songs featuring the little-heard "simbi" (an ancient seven stringed hunter's harp), which add much needed variety to what might otherwise have been little more than a glorified field recording. Kasse Mady has a great voice and he's joined on four songs by his brother Lafia, who will be familiar to owners of Djelimady Tounkara's solo album Sigui. And though it lacks the polish of that record, it does have that loose organic feel which only comes from musicians interacting live in the studio. --Jon Lusk
Kasse Mady Foday Diabate is as well-qualified as any Malian musician to take us on this wonderful reconnaissance tour of Mande music's many facets.
The instrumentation throughout is traditional but robust. One composition may highlight the possibilities of the balafon (xylophone) whilst another concentrates on the ngoni (lute) or Kora(21-string harp).
There are also two Cuban style charanga pieces, led by the flute of Dramane Coulibaly who formed part of the famous 70s Malian charanga band Las Maravillas De Mali. These are underpinned by the surprising but welcome guest appearance of renowned Cuban bassist Orlando Cachaito Lopez.
Producer Lucy Duran arranged for these recordings to be made largely on site, in a hastily converted hut in Kela, the village home of many of Mali's finest jelis, or praise singers. The sense of midday heat and rural tranquillity are almost palpable as the musicians work their way unhurriedly through tracks like 'Eh Ya Ye', a cautionary tale about not exaggerating one's abilities.
There's a traditional reworking of Kasse Mady's 80s Paris dancefloor hit 'Kaba Mansa' and the beautiful Jembe dance song 'Danya'. The lovely Cuban-style dance tune, 'Balomina Mwanga', is sung in Spanish but the main languages used here are Maninka and Bamana.
Duran's fascinating liner notes do justice to her profound knowledge of, and love for Malian culture. The painstaking preparation that clearly went into the making of this record is an object lesson for those sceptics who claim that music sounds the same wherever it's recorded.
It doesn't, and here's the living proof. --John Armstrong
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