Saturday, June 04, 2011

MACIRE SYLLA - Talitha Djembe (Fare)/SAYON BAMBA - Dougna (Cobalt)

You always know what you’re going to get with Maciré Sylla – funky Afro-European pop (as usual, she uses a mix of European and African artists) that’s vocally strong and with a muscular rhythmic touch. Building her sound around a brass section and coterie of electric guitarists - with trad touches from kora, balafon and flute - the Guinean griotte harnesses traditional melodies in slick arrangements that, through sheer dint of repetition, perhaps veer on the conservative. A couple of intriguing ballads and the seeding of a handful of simpler melodies hint at a move to the musical centre ground, which in many respects should be welcomed in lieu of treading water in the perfectly acceptable but slightly by-numbers area in which she finds herself.

Fellow Guinean songstress Sayon Bamba is, if anything, an even slicker operator, laying mandolin, ngoni, balafon and acoustic guitar over electronic beats and effects on an elegantly structured exercise in pan-African pop-rock. Sounding as if she’s influenced by a wide range of all those funkily modern West African chanteuses (Kidjo, Gnahore, Rokia etc) Dougna is a far cry from Bamba’s past role as a singer with Les Amazones de Guinee. No blasting funk here, little in the way of electric guitar, and even if Bamba’s admirable restraint mostly works well within the sleek arrangements here, it would be nice to hear her really let go once in a while (the Angelique-a-like Aborongo comes closest) . Nevertheless, a good album and an artist to watch out for in the future.

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