The influence of donso music on Keita's Moffou and Mbemba is more apparent in the music of Keita's 'spiritual father', sexagenarian Sina Sinayoko. There's much in common between Boula and those great albums - the same languid pulse, the same use of sweet female harmonies (supplied here by Keita's three sisters), the same exquisite, shifting interplay between the natural, elegant rhythms of the instruments, all of which benefits from the spacious production of which Keita has become such a master. Like Coulibaly, Sinayoko is a master of the simbi, but rather than being percussive, his songs tend to be built around the subtle sound of the bolon and seem designed to seduce rather than entrance (in fact this is 'Donso-foly' music, traditionally used to purify hunters before and after their hunting treks). At a tantalising half an hour's length, Boula is that rare creature in today's more-is-less world of 60-minute-plus albums, in being a song or two shorter than it could be. A pity, because the addictive combination of Sinayoko's strong but gentle voice and those sinuous backing vocalists, all set against softly fluctuating rhythms, puts Boula just a couple of unforgettable tunes short of being a contender for traditional African album of the year.
This review first appeared in fRoots magazine.