Various Artists

Rough Guide to Senegal

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Senegal certainly punches above its weight when it comes to producing musical talent. Many of those major stars are on this disc, people like Youssou N'Dour (of course), Baaba Maal and his companion Mansour Seck, Orchestra Baobab, Cheikh Lô, Ismaël Lô, and others. It also serves as a reminder that Cuban music has exerted huge influence on the development of the Senegalese sound (indeed, all of West Africa), and salsa, too, is part of Africando's raison d'être -- and they do it superbly, with an African twist. Naturally, mbalax, the spring native rhythm that propelled N'Dour to stardom, is shown, not so much in the Etoile de Dakar track, where N'Dour's inimitable griot wail is in gorgeous evidence (instead it's a slow track, which builds in pace and intensity toward the end), but certainly in the work of Fallou Dieng, wonderfully energetic and urgent. Ismaël Lô, often referred to as the Senegalese Dylan, brings a softer touch to close the disc and shows more of the breadth of fabulous music from Senegal, while the hip-hop of Sister Fa stands for a newer generation. While this touches on all the major points, it would have been more interesting if the disc had offered greater focus on emerging performers rather than established stars. That said, the additional disc comes from Daby Balde, one who's coming up.

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