Aza Arianao

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Malagasy band Jaojoby (named for its leader) is the leading exponent of the island's infectious 6/8 dance style called salegy. Over the years the group has perfected it, and continues to explore its possibilities. The guitar-driven music here features some superb, lyrical picking by Raledy Vink Bamouaz Tafara and Laurent Randrianambinina, providing the foundation of sound for Jaojoby Eus├Ębe's voice. But there's much more going on, with the strong underpinning of the rhythm section and powerful female backing vocals. They set their stall out from the very start with the hectic "Somaiko Somainao" and don't let up until the fourth cut, the slower, beautifully textured "Mangala Vaiavy." But even that is just a pause to catch one's breath. Then it's back, headlong into the mellifluous sound and irresistible rhythm, broken up by the lyrical flute and sax of "Alima." But they take the music through many textures -- "Pecto," for example, has West African overtones. But then, the music of Madagascar is like no other, pulling from so many sources and influences and melding them into a unique whole. There's also a real soul under the dance music, a depth to the arrangements that makes it a satisfying pleasure.

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