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Kassi Kasse

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Though this Malian griot has a career stretching back to the early 70s, he's not nearly as well known as his musical pedigree would lead you to expect. Kassi Kasse is his first solo work since the patchy but intriguing brace of albums he recorded with producer Ibrahim Sylla in Paris in 1989 and 1990. But you're more likely to know his voice from guest appearances on the Songhai 2 album or Taj Mahal's Kulanjan. The musician linking those two albums with this latest effort is mercurial kora maestro Toumani Diabate, who furnishes just one track with his rippling accompaniment. The arrangements are almost exclusively traditional (n'goni, balafon, dundún, djembe etc), but the material traces both the musical heritage of his home village of Kela (where it was recorded in a disused infirmary) and Kasse Mady's own career. That's why a couple of rather charming Cuban flavoured numbers from his days in the '70's and '80's with the orchestra Las Maravillas du Mali are included.

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

BBC Review

Traditional Malian, or Mande music, has captured the imagination of Western music lovers like almost no other African music. It possesses a translucent purity both in sound and delivery, such that an understanding of the songs meanings become almost secondary to the atmosphere they generate.

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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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great album of malian music 21 April 2006
By Daniel Rodriguez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic album. There is a great blend of traditional Malian music along with a few outstanding tracks of cuban influenced music. Everything is outstanding and the great music will keep you grooving all the way through. A must buy!
5.0 out of 5 stars Griots return even deeper to their roots with all-acoustics 1 Sept. 2004
By D. Donovan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Like his previous recordings, KASSI KASSE keeps it simple and harmonious with primarily traditional instruments and style with just a small touch of modern technique to enhance the recording quality.

 A real surprise is the use of Orlando "Cachaito' Lopez, the great Cuban musician, on double bass. Of course, Cachaito is the latest star in a long line of family musicians, so maybe it's logical he was chosen for this recording: he fits right in, uplifting the African music without standing out or showboating.
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