Super Rail Band

Djougouya Magni

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In the first recording for several years from one of Africa's most venerated outfits, it seemed as if it'd never been away. While Mali's Super Rail Band didn't have a superstar vocalist like Salif Keita or Mory Kante, both of whom had long since gone on to other things, the three singers -- Damory Kouyate, Abdoulaye Traore, and Modibo Diabate -- all carried on superbly, whether alone or in harmony. The secret weapon, however, as always, was Djelimady Tounkara, possibly the best guitarist on the planet, with nimble fingers, fluid execution, and the kind of imagination that refused to quit. While he could undoubtedly have carried the band alone, his longtime colleague, saxophonist Kabine Keita, was more than up to the task of propelling things along with him on the set of original tunes, all of which had long being hammered into shape by regular gigs in Bamako. While there was still a lingering Cuban influence in the rhythms and the singing, overall this showed that the Super Rail Band had come to pull together the different stands of Mali's music and forge a new national whole with it. Scintillating improvisations make each track into little gems, subtle, wicked, and ultimately musically satisfying.

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