Foday Musa Suso

Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa & Beyond

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The packaging gurus at the normally canny Ellipsis Arts were half asleep when they concocted this boxed set containing a lone CD swimming in cardboard plus a National Geographic-size accompanying soft-cover book. Too bad, because the material clearly warrants two discs, one of traditional material, one of experimental, as Mandingo Griot Society-founder Foday Musa Suso traces his roots in Senegambia. The tracks with Suso's family members performing traditional pieces are amazingly strong. But the collaborations with Pharoah Sanders, Bill Laswell, and other westerners seem tentative and out of place. Only "Spring Waterfall" stands on its own as Phillip Glass' trademark repetitive piano figures achieve a hypnotic force almost equal to that of the West African jalis.

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