Saturday, May 15, 2010

DABY BALDE - Le Marigot Club Dakar (Riverboat)

Daby Balde’s second album showcases songs the Senegalese singer-songwriter plays at the club from which this album takes its name (there’s even a bogof drink token from the club inside the album sleeve!). It has a similar feel to his accomplished Introducing debut, with mid-tempo tunes that start out sounding attractive if not exactly compelling, but which separate and creep up on the listener one by one over repeated plays. Balde plays intricate acoustic guitar with a light touch, with saxophone and violin winding a thread through the songs (no accordion this time round), the interplay between these instruments and other acoustic guitars and – on occasion - kora providing a fluid rhythmic base, with kit drum and calabash employed for added vigour.

Daby hails from the Casamance region in the south of the country, and the Marigot club is named after the river which flows through his home region. And there’s certainly a lush texture to the arrangements, and to Balde’s clear, distinctive voice which has a yearning edge despite a relatively high tone (female harmonies also add light and colour), with the singer having enough confidence to not even try to match the power of a Baaba Mal or a Youssou NDour – what’s left out is as important as what he puts in. The utilisation of a range of languages (mainly Wolof and Fula, but Mandinka and French too) is evidence of the loose and open approach to European and West African influences that’s reflected in the broad style of these songs of clarity and subtle melody, although a past stirring WOMAD performance and reports of the excitement aroused in Dakar when these songs are performed live suggest that as approachable as Le Marigot Club Dakar is, the thirteen songs here really need to be heard in the live context to really take flight.

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