Henri Dikongué

Biso Nawa

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When someone who doesn't know much about African music (either traditional or modern) asks, "What does African pop sound like?," an appropriate response would be, "It sounds like many different things." African pop can -- depending on the artist or the country -- be anything from ultra-exuberant to moody, haunting, and dusky to quietly introspective. That gently introspective approach has served Henri Dikongué well in the past, and it continues to serve the Cameroon native well on Biso Nawa. Those who know Dikongué for Mot'a Bobe or C'est la Vie won't find Biso Nawa to be a radical change for him; Dikongué is still a master of subtlety and restraint, and that understated approach is appealing whether he is singing in the Douala language on most of the tracks, in French on "Ne Sous X" and "Awale," or in Spanish on "El Tyrano." It serves him well whether he is incorporating jazz, folk, R&B, funk, or Brazilian samba. Dikongué, one could argue, is to African pop what Chet Baker and June Christy are to jazz, Joni Mitchell is to folk-pop, and Astrud Gilberto is to Brazilian bossa nova -- that is, he is the sort of artist who knows how to get his emotional points across without beating listeners over the head. Of course, there is nothing wrong with choosing aggression over subtlety; forcefulness worked as well for John Coltrane as it did for Black Sabbath and Public Enemy. But that isn't where Dikongué is coming from artistically on Biso Nawa, which isn't quite as essential as Mot'a Bobe or C'est la Vie but is still a worthwhile, heartfelt addition to his catalog.

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