Kakande

Dununya

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West Africa meets America on this disc, and West Africa definitely wins. Guinean griot Famoro Dioubaté relies heavily on this tradition, both for songs and his balafon (akin to a xylophone) playing. Even his original compositions, such as "Kakande" are strongly influenced by the music he learned growing up. What sets this disc apart is the arrangements, that bring in Western players on flute, sax and cello to complement the African instruments. They play a largely subservient role, however, adding color and texture to the pieces without altering the framework -- the closest to a real merge between cultures comes on the title cut. Overall it's a very successful mix, never forgetting its roots, whether on the lovely "Nina Kaba" or "Paya Paya," which features an unusual heirloom -- a balafon solo handed down by Dioubaté's grandfather. The more upbeat material rocks gorgeously to an African beat, and the whole thing is an absolute joy.

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