Sunday, June 05, 2011

ABDOULAYE TRAORE & MOHAMED DIABY - Debademba (Naive)/DIOM DE KOSSA - In My Father’s Shadow (Talik)

Debabemba means “big family” in Bambara, and there’s a feeling of extended family get-together about this beefy, sonically wide-ranging album that was hatched in the bustling Parisian suburb of Belleville. Traoré, a guitarist originally from Burkina Faso, has teamed up with Ivorian Diaby, a singer with a remarkable voice that combines the forceful declamations of his griot antecedents with velvety, emotive expression.

Produced and arranged with a sumptuous Parisian-African sensibility, the album is topped and tailed by a folsksy ballad and a salsa workout, between which the listener is taken on a whirlwind tour of electric Bambara, jazz, soul and blues, tinged with Afrobeat in places and all of it infused with strains of Andalusion guitar and Arabic textures (including the snaking, breathy melodies of flautist Naissam Jalal).

If that sounds a bit too rich a mix, at times Debademba does trip over its own ambitious attempt to create such a melting pot of styles, particularly in the two extended jazz inflected workouts that weigh down the midpoint of the album. But either side of those tracks, Debademba exudes impressive reserves of vibrancy and inspiration.

Agnakamina – all tumbling rhythm, twangy guitar and wild flute – crackles with energy; Kiele Djola builds a strummed mandolin opening into an up-tempo blend of north- and west-African grooves; and Loundotemena swings exquisitely around acoustic guitar, with balafon with ngoni melodies trailing and mimicking those of gospel-style female backing.

Guest singers Fatou Diawarra and Awa add more distaff variety in consecutive songs towards the end of the album, the latter’s slightly other-worldly tones breathing character into Camille Hablar’s cello on the off-kilter Africa Blues. All of which tips the balance of this appealing album in favour of successful execution of myriad influences against the overwrought mess it could so easily have been.

Diom de Kossa is an Ivorian singer whose spacious album contains tunes that sound as if they were written for outdoor summer airing. De Kossa floats easy melodies in his strong baritone voice over a stock electric four-piece backing, with backing singers and the deployment of traditional instruments such as the konting lute leavening arrangements where the repeated choruses and ever-so-slightly extraneous lead guitar or drum fills can lead to a serious case of festival-style mind-wander, although there’s usually enough of an edge to snap the listener back to attention. With a couple of jaunty traditional numbers beaten out on the Yadoh drum, Baba Toulenga makes for a decent, unobtrusively feel-good summer soundtrack.

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