Kemintan 'Ba' Cissoko and his troupe’s début electro-kora release Sabolan blew in on a wave of ‘roll over Toumani, tell Jali Musa the news’ type headlines a couple of years ago, as the extraordinary effect of Sekou Kouyaté’s plugged-in and souped-up wah-wah kora sent electronic ripples through the traditionally acoustic Mandé music of West Africa.
But there was already a finely tuned pop aesthetic and acknowledgment of the Guinean quartet's griot tradition on that release, and that has been reinforced on this more rounded, satisfying follow-up.
Kouyaté's groundbreaking style is still very much in evidence, flitting between beefy, bluesy lead guitar riffs, atmospheric dubby reverb and funky rhythmic support. But it's all adeptly integrated with the rest of the ensemble, serving to accentuate Cissoko's own highly impressive crystal clear kora playing and ear for melody.
For evidence of that, you need look no further than the delightful modern take on the traditional song Tjedo, which features an almost irritatingly catchy ear-worm of a hook sung by guest backing singers Les Nubians. It fairly bubbles along on a watery bed of bass guitar and calabash and the delicate phrasing of the two koras, and in a more equal world would surely be getting non-stop daytime radio airplay.
On Veut Se Marier - a lilting reggae tale of why musicians are reluctant to marry, and one of two tracks featuring Côte D'Ivoirean star Tiken Jah Fakoly - has crossover appeal as well, and if there are shades of Dimanche à Bamako about that track, Adouna is even more Chaoesque in its laid back Mediterranean feel until Kouyaté gets to do his best dubbed-up Hendrix impression. But the band can still rock out with the best of them, most notably on the pacy opener Griot-ba, and La Rève de L'Oiseau; Silani is lent a radical urban air by K'Naan's high-octane rap against materialism.
The kora’s name is Cissoko according the title of the last track, and it’s difficult to argue with such confidence in the face of such an assured recording. Mainstream exposure surely beckons.
UK Distribution by Sterns: www.sternsmusic.com