Thursday, June 02, 2011

MAH DAMBA - A L’ombre du Grand Baobab (Universal)

Mah Damba – the niece of the mighty Fanta Damba - resides in France, performing chiefly for the Malian community in Paris – but has a very rooted approach to her music, deploying her powerful, treacly voice to an organic ngoni, acoustic guitar, tama and djembe groove sweetened by two female backing singers. Think a Mandé version of Oumou Sangaré’s last album Seya, but with the kitchen sink taken out. The only slight drawback to an album that swings with no little charm throughout is the lack of any real standout tracks. Jolen perhaps sees the ensemble at its fullest, danceable best, with its cute, French-language hook of a chorus on top of a nicely chattering percussive backing. That tune contrasts well with the following track, Jugu Te Maa La, which finds Mah Damba intoning over a sparse ngoni and tama backing. This is the sound of a fine troupe of instrumentalists really enjoying themselves in support of a singer of grace and nuance. No surprise, really, given that it comprises pretty much all of Mah Damba’s immediate family.

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