"Keur Moussa" means "House of Moses" is the Wolof language of Senegal. The Keur Moussa Abbey was founded by nine French monks in 1963. Now most of the three dozen brothers at Keur Moussa are African. French and Senegalese; together they have created a new music fusing European plainchant and instruments with African sensibilities and instruments. The most noticeable instrument on Keur Moussa: Sacred Chant & African Rhythms from Senegal is the kora, which is an African instrument approximately half-way between a harp and a lute. Many Westerners know it from the work of Mali's Toumani Diabaté. It has a beautiful, delicate sound appropriate to religious music, and that is how it comes across on most of the tracks where it appears. It can be played quite fiercely, however, as on the instrumental psalm "Ethiopie," where the two koras attack their subject with an almost Beethoven-like intensity. Most of the pieces feature the Monks of Keur Moussa Abbey singing as a choir, usually with one or another soloist (the musicians are not named in the liner notes).The singers have a pleasant and cheerful sound, with none of the stereotypical and depressing overtones of chant. Some of the soloists have voices that are at once velvety, light, and serene, like meringue. The psalms are usually antiphonal in form and are sung in French and Wolof. There is a pleasing mixture of voices and instruments in different combinations. The instrumental "Dédicace" features an oboe and kora. "Kambéré Saramang," the only track where credit is given to the musicians, is a fast-paced duet between Carole Audet Ouellet on kora and Sara Ba on flute. This duet is especially noteworthy for the flutist's advanced technique of vocalizing: he sings wordlessly while playing to add color to the sound. Several other tracks feature the belafon, or African xylophone, and various drums. Many aspects of this new and vibrant musical tradition are highlighted. No fan of chant or African music should miss this one.
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AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner