Friday, September 17, 2010

SAMY IZY - Tsara Madagasikara (Network)/FATAKA - Tomboarivo (Snail Records)

Samoela Andriamalalaharijaona – “Tarika Sammy” – is a multi-talented exponent of all things musically Malagasy, and a master of a bewildering array of the island’s stringed instruments. With his youthful nine-piece he has delivered an album of mostly acoustic, deliciously vibrant polyphonic roots music. He’s joined by young two lead singers whose voices dovetail to alluring melodic effect. Bosco has high, pure, emotive tones that contrast with the soulful Amizou, his throatily sensuous female counterpoint. Pacy accordeonist Médecis and Petit’s polyrhythmic percussion make up the rest of the core setup, and it’s buttressed by flute, bass, slide guitar, brass and an array of other interweaving instruments and singers as the mood dictates. Rounded off by a stirring gospel choir coda, Tsara Madagasikara is a terrific album that arrives in all its sunny splendour right in time for the summer.

Fataka relies less on the traditional instruments of Madagascar, although the chime of his acoustic guitar provides a decent approximation of the kabosy guitar, and his vocals root him firmly in his native traditions. This spare acoustic album (acoustic guitar, bass, occasional drums) has much to recommend it, each track being short, melodic, straight to the point and sufficiently varied in pace to hold the interest. It doesn’t quite get the foot tapping in the manner of the Samy Izy release, and nor is it blessed with any truly standout moments. But its economical expertise and bright and breezy manner make Tomboarivo a consistently enjoyable outing.

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