Thursday, June 02, 2011

MAMADOU DIABATE - Courage (World Village)

Mamadou Diabaté’s previous album, the sparkling Douga Mansa, appeared from under the radar to earn a thoroughly deserved Grammy award in 2009. That highly accomplished kora-only affair placed emphasis on the re-interpretation of traditional tracks, and arguably overshadows much of the recent output of some of his more celebrated peers. Credit is due to the Malian for refusing to rest on his laurels by merely repeating the formula for the follow-up, instead returning to ensemble work with an accent on original compositions. The result of this Mamadou’s fifth album is therefore a more experimental, worldly recording, reflecting the US base of the artist and his cohorts. The song-writing is approached with the western audience preference for unobtrusively undulating melodies in mind (and why not?) and Mamadou’s interaction with the jazz scene, and his ability to mix sharp extemporisation with a light, silky touch remains engaging throughout, in particular through some thrilling instrumental conversations with balafon player Lansa Fode Diabaté. Kita Djely is the best of those, the balafon bubbly and bright, kora dancing in and out of shifting rhythmic patterns. Amongst other highlights, Abou Sissoko on ngoni chips in with some intriguing running ngoni lines on Humanity, and Mamadou is briefly back in solo, reflective mode on the beautiful Kora Journey. The result is arguably a slight dip in standard overall compared to its predecessor but it’s a worthwhile move for all that as Mamadou Diabaté continues to hone his considerable talent.

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