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This is the first album released after the less than amicable breakup of the Madagascan band Tarika Sammy. The two front-line singers, Hanitrarivo Rasoanaivo (known as Hanitra) and Tina Norosoa Raharimalala (known as Noro), formed a group of their own with the briefer name Tarika (which simply translates as "Group"), leaving behind the band's original founder, Samoela Andriammalalaharijaona. While the two women had contributed wonderful vocal work to the band, Sammy had lent it something of an air of gravitas, supplying a level of depth that distinguished it from your typical pop band. Here, Tarika takes something of a turn toward pop stardom at the expense of the group's Madagascan folk roots, and the results -- while impressive and far more enjoyable than most world music product -- lose a bit of grit and passion. As with much popular music from that island, the songs are lilting and upbeat, driven on by the valiha, a native zither, extensive percussion, and -- above all -- the ringing harmonies of the vocals. Their lovely blend on pieces like "Haintany" is something unique in contemporary music. For Western listeners especially, the unusual mélange of both language and music from cultures as diverse as East Africa, India, and the Middle East, which all converged in Madagascar, makes for generally fascinating listening, even if the production values tilt somewhat more to the pop side than one would wish. Bibiango is a good, solid album but those wishing to hear something a bit closer to the bone would do well to check out either Fanafody or Balance with Sammy aboard.

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