Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jali Musa Jawara - Yasimika (1990)

Proclaimed and generally acknowledged as one of the classic recordings from Africa, this exquisitely recorded gem has the power to haunt for decades. Guinean kora master Jali Musa Jawara (Diawara) headlines this record, though his kora is set amidst equally skilled balafon from Jalimrijan Kuyateh and two other Kuyatehs, Lamine and Kissiman, on guitar. Jawara's singing is passionate and beautiful, and perfectly balanced with the female chorus.

Drawn from two of the most legendary griot families, this ensemble provided a revelatory introduction to Manding love and praise songs, when it was first released in 1983. This 1990 reissue on Hannibal spread it throughout the world. Apparently it was remastered a few years ago for a second CD release, but nothing in this original release needs any tampering whatsoever.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Zani Diabate & The Super Djata Band (1986)

As a military coup rocks Mali today, throwing the country into chaos, this ferocious music from The Super Djata band could be one choice for a soundtrack. Perhaps a melancholic ballad from Rokia Traoré would be a better choice, but that is a separate discussion.

Zani Diabate burst onto the international market with this record, and his fierce guitar became the focus of critic notice. He is compared on the album sleeve to Jimi Hendrix, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King and Freddie King, but his innovative accomplishment was providing a completely new interpretation of Malian guitar.

This album throbs with energy, though it is not all generated by Zani's guitar. Super Djata was co-founded by the great Daouda "Flani" Sangare, and his urgent singing is easily as remarkable as the guitar. You can read more about this extraordinary musician on Worldservice's very first post. Percussion is always up front on this session, with trap drums jousting with traditional Malinke drumming. The album rocks, from beginning to end, sounding just as fresh and modern now as it did a quarter century ago.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Le Grand Maitre Franco - Attention Na SIDA (1987)

What better album to begin a second year and the second hundred posts than this masterpiece from the grand Franco Luambo? The long title track is a polemic and a protest, an outcry and a public health message, a heartfelt entreaty to the world to beware the scourge of AIDS. One cannot listen to Franco singing, with more emotion than ever before, without being moved. His outrage thunders forth with the authoritative voice of a god, while ache and despair are just below the surface. Two years after producing this tremendous recording, Franco would die of the dread disease.

Recorded in Brussels while on business without his band, Franco recruited members of Victoria Eleison to back him. The music absolutely sparkles. While the first magnificent moral diatribe carries a message, the two songs on the flip side are built to move the body. The Checain song "Mpo Na Nini Kaka Ngai?" swings with a retro feel, while the more concise "Na Poni Kaka Yo Mayi" carries the youthful energy of the Langa Langa generation. Feast and . . .

Friday, March 9, 2012

Akendengue - Owende (1979)

For this, my one-hundredth post and the beginning of this blog's second year of life, I offer a special album that is one of my favorites, Pierre Akendengue's fourth album, Owende. As I wrote in my first, testing-the-water post here, I have a long history with Akendengue's music. I consider him to be a musical genius with an unique vision.

The brilliance begins with rhythms, which are always complex and impelling, yet the rhythm section integrally includes the human instrument alongside various drums, either voice or clapping hands, or both. In many of his songs the usually female chorus adds rhythmic cadence, in call-and-reponse exchanges with Akendengue, but often the voices are used specifically to augment or even give foundation for the whole rhythmic structure.

Voices, including his own, are central to Akendengue's beautiful music, and this album opens with harmonious, gentle singing. His vocalizations are inspired by his observations of birdsong in Gabon's rainforest, but a couple of the songs on this album feature Akendengue as poet, much more common in his early albums.

Akendengue is a social critic, and this may be his most explicitly political album. Owende translates as Oppression, and the song "Anome Anomie" celebrates a plethora of freedom fighters including Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Che Guevara and Malcolm X, among others. All of the lyrics are included in the centerfold of this deluxe album, replicated for your benefit in the download folder. With great pleasure I invite you to. . .