Saturday, June 04, 2011

NATHALIE NATIEMBE - Karma (Sakifo Records)/CHRISTINE SALEM - Lanbousir (Cobalt)

It feels like years since we heard from this intriguing singer of Mozambique heritage from La Réunion and (forgive me if I’m misremembering) in past incarnations she seemed to draw heavily on her percussive creole maloya roots. There’s little left of that on Karma, a moody, effects-laden meeting with genre-defying French sound-sculptors Bumcello.

Natiembé has a tough, forceful vocal style pitched somewhere between a rap and a chant (a rant?) which are set against Vincent Ségal’s portentous dubbed up bass and Cyril Atef’s trippy percussive effects on an album that often intrigues, but which almost drowns the singer’s Indian Ocean and African roots its artfully-rendered wall of sound. Readers of this magazine are warned to approach with care.

Christine Salem is more in the mould of the Nathalie Natembe of old, a singer also from La Réunion who dampens rhythmic maloya percussion with the evocative rattle of her kayamb shaker. The songs are mostly call and response chants – Salem’s vocals a glorious controlled belt, too forceful to be described as soulful, too assured to be described as raucous – against a sparse rhythmic backdrop.

Energetic and repetitive, there’s a hypnotic feel to the music that contains traces of the Brazilian Bahia style (Ila and Maméléo go further, bordering on the exultant choreographed thrum of samba rhythm) and although Christine has been brought out from behind the Salem Tradition name by which this thrilling collective is usually known – presumably in an attempt to modernise the appeal, the music remains vibrantly rooted in a sound worthy of that original classification. Traditional music with a modern sensibility - Lanbousir works, and works well.

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