You might not think the delicate strains of the Kora would fit into a modern african dance-band style, but you'd be wrong.
The Symmetric Orchestra (so-called according to the rather nice accompanying DVD because it combines old and new styles) start the album with a burst of jazzy trumpets, and kick off into a lilting beat that features drums, electric guitars as well as Diabate's virtuoso kora playing and some traditional percussion. The vocals are great, the songs flow along and the sheer enjoyment of the performances seeps out of the speakers. The overall mood is constantly upbeat and the final track is a real peach but just fades out a bit too suddenly when it sounds as if they could carry on all night.
Great for fans of West African music, a must for those who enjoy Orchestre Baobab and Cheik Lo, even the East African styles of Thomas Mapfumo and others.
Wow! Toumani Diabate has produced some fantastic stuff over the years, but this is a modern gem. This is the sound of a very modern Mali. If you love New Ancient Strings then you'll find Boulevard de L'Independance very different, but no less engaging. Here, Diabate's kora often forms the backing to hauting vocals and pounding drums, rather than the obvious centerpiece to his previous albums. It's easy to see where this album has come from, it's basically Diabate+friends, and although not wholly traditional in griot terms, it's a modern African masterpiece. If you enjoyed In the Heart of the Moon with the late Ali Farka Toure, you're sure to find this equally rewarding.
Take the greatest living exponent of the kora (21 string African harp), add one of the tightest Afro-funk bands you're ever likely to hear, and package this up with usual exemplary World Circuit production and artwork to give you perhaps the finest African album you'll hear in many a year. Virtuosity meets soulful grooves in a melting pot of pulsating African rhythms - watch the accompanying DVD and I defy you not to wish you were at Bamako's Hogon club watching this funktastic band in action. Brilliant stuff!
what an amazing piece of work from the kora maestro ! great album. have his other albums including kulanjan with taj mahal and in the heart of the moon with ali farka toure, and this is up there with them !! i had the very good fortue of seeing him live in dublin last night in the iveagh gardens, and it lived up to all my expectations and beyond! he also stayed back after the gig to chat to the fans and signed autographs and posed for photos - so friendly and humble and so likeable. but back to the music - if u have it, u know how good it is ; if u don't - what r u waiting for ???? GET IT !!
As a lover of Diabate's classic kora albums, such as 'Mande Variations', or the exquisite 'In the Heart of the Moon' with Farka Tore, I was wary of any kind of 'fushion' approach which might overwhelm the delicate subtleties of the kora. However, the positive reviews here won me over. At first, I confess, I thought I'd made a mistake, as the blast of trumpets which begin the album seemed way out of kilter with the delicate singing voice of the kora which follows. I was still uncertain by the end of the album.
However, a few plays later, and I'm a covert. The sheer excitement & electricity of the performance is captivating, and either the balance of instruments improve, or the ear adjusts as you listen on, till the last few pieces seem more beguiling and addictive than ever. I was genuinely sad when the cd finished; happily unlike a live performance, I could immediately play this again. Wonderful!
Toumani Diabate's playing here is in an unexpected setting - if you are used to hearing his superb kora playing on its own or with guitar (on two albums with the late Ali Farka Toure.) On this recording, made with some of the best musicians in Mali we hear Toumani's kora integrated with an array of instruments some more traditional, some modern. I've heard that this group have a residency (or had) in one of Bamaka's top hotels. It's a superb recording of the kora within a larger group. And as expected, Toumani's playing shines through it all.
Approach this from the Cuban end of the World Circuit catalogue, via Orchestra Baobab, and you slide into a heady melting pot of swirling rhythms and styles that'll put a big grin on your face and set your feet tapping. "Africa Challenge" is a salsa to end all salsas, and you can only imagine the atmosphere in Bamako's Hogon Club when the Symmetric Orchestra end their set with it.
All World Circuit releases are special - this one just a bit extra special!