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This review is from: Beautiful Africa (Audio CD)
Malian singer/songwriter Rokia Traore has an immediately recognisable
voice. It demands instant attention with its rich, slightly raspy vibrato
and smokey tone. John Parish (long time collaborator with P J Harvey)
is a terrific choice of producer for her collection of nine new songs.
The stage he sets is uncluttered and transparent. Ms Traore's authoritative
performances sit comfortably at the heart of these deliciously limpid
arrangements for jangly guitars, crisp percussion and tight backing vocals.
Things kick off wonderfully well with the slinky groove of 'Lalla', a
laid-back but upbeat confection full of silver, mercurial guitar lines
and the trembling words packed in tight together like sardines in a tin.
'Sikey', too, rattles along gamely on the back of some devilishly tricky beats
and sharply pointed harmonic punctuation marks. 'Ka Moun Ke' delivers
some of the project's prettiest and most affecting melodic ideas and the
stripped-down, almost minimalist, rhythmic structure of 'N'Teri' provides a
platform for Ms Traore's voice to burn with quiet intensity and beautifully
restrained passion. It is perhaps her finest moment in this engaging work.
Simplicity, economy and not a little magic combine to make 'Beautiful Africa'
one of the loveliest recordings we will be lucky enough to befriend this year.