Mamani Keïta

Electro Bamako

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Fusing African and Western music has become almost common currency these days, and sometimes it can prove to be a heady combination. This, however, isn't one of those instances. Malian Mamani Keita, a former backup singer to Salif Keita, teamed with Frenchman Marc Minelli, who provided much of the music, the arrangements, and programming, to create something both rooted and modern. Great idea. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. She's a good if not outstanding singer, and she does her part well. It's in the music that it all falls down. The intention is to base everything around a groove, but the grooves all manage to sound mechanical and -- sin of sins -- boring. There's no sense of sweat, and nothing makes you want to dance. Even with plenty of human musicians, the closest this album comes to feeling "real" is on the jazz-inflected opener, "N'Ka Willy." Whatever the reason, the sparks never catch and start a fire here.

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