The album was recorded in Bamako, and co-produced by Nick Gold, Oumou Sangare and Cheick Tidiane Seck. Musicians on the album include fellow World Circuit artist and kora virtuoso Toumani Diabaté, the great guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun and Magic Malik on flute.
Seya sees Oumou Sangare attain a new level of sophistication, maturity and variety, all underpinned by her trademark funk-driven Wassoulou sound. As with her previous albums all the songs on Seya were written by Sangare.Oumou Sangare is the most popular female singer in Mali and alongside Salif Keita she is arguably the country's most famous musician. And this in a country renowned for its music where stars such as Amadou and Mariam, Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyate, Rokia Traoré and Ali Farka Touré have dominated the world music scene in the international arena.
On the international stage her albums and explosive performances have earned her an enviable reputation. Oumou is sought out for collaborations by a wide range of international stars including Alicia Keys, Béla Fleck, Trilok Gurtu and Meshell Ndeogeocello. She also counts Oprah Winfrey as a fan.
Seya traverses a wide range of moods, from confident and celebratory to more austere, stripped down meditations. And while few artists give as good a groove as Oumou, the latter are often the best settings to appreciate her extraordinary voice; if Aretha Franklin had grown up in Bamako, she might have sounded something like this.
Apart from the declamatory Donso - an adaptation of a traditional Wassoulou hunter's song - the material is all original as usual, and the basis of her distinctive sound remains the twitching, funky sound of the kamel n'goni('youth harp'), mostly played by 'Benogo' Brehima Diakité. But with fifty musicians taking part, there's more variety of sounds and textures than ever. She's used electric guitar before, but never with the kind of squealing rock treatments heard on Senkele Te Sira and Kounadya, which also features a great retro Hammond organ solo by co-producer Cheick TidianeSeck. There's brass and the occasional deft use of strings, as well as guests such as flautist 'Magic' Malik Mazzadri and drummer Tony Allen, but none are allowed to overshadow the star.
Though it's difficult to pick highlights from such a consistent album, the driving opener Sounsoumba and the radiantly joyful title track, with its lovely swooping chorus vocals, are the most instantly appealing of the more upbeat pieces. Despite a great percussive thrust, Wele Wele Wintou is the one track with a vocal not quite up to Sangare's usual stratospheric standards, and the only song where the brass section feels a little out of place. But the hypnotic likes of Sukunyali, or the mesmerising balafon (wooden xylophone) tones of Iyo Djeli and Mogo Kele more than make up for minor shortcomings. --Jon Lusk
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(4 stars) Seya is a massive album of 11 big hitting tracks that leaves the listener breathless...an undisputed heavyweight classic. -- Songlines (Top of the World album), (Rose Skelton), March 2009
(5 stars) Spectacular...a majestic mistress of many moods who presides over her musicians with regal confidence...a masterpiece. -- The Observer Music Monthly, (Charlie Gillett), February 15, 2009
Exceptional...so raw, so true and so brilliantly focused...a veritable masterpiece in the offing.
-- The Independent, (Andy Morgan), January 23, 2009
Superb...Sangare's relaxed, almost conversational vocals power the whole thing, exuding ancestral passion and a thoroughly modern, urban poise. -- Daily Telegraph (Pop CD of the week), (Mark Hudson), February 9, 2009