As vast as Africa is, it stands to reason that the continent would offer a diversity of pop music. Those who've listened to mostly soukous or zouk might think of African pop as exuberant, fast and hyper, but those whose only exposure to African music was contemporary Ethiopian pop might think of Afro-pop as moody and dusky. Reflective and folk-like, Habib Koite's Ma Ya is a far cry from African dance music. In 1998, the expressive Malian singer/guitarist enjoyed a lot of exposure in both Africa and Europe with Ma Ya, which didn't come out in the U.S. until early 1999. Backed by his band, Bamada, Koite is expressive and evocative on originals such as "Kumbin," "Wassive" and "Foro Bana." You might not understand the lyrics that Koite is singing, but it's obvious that he brings a lot of feeling and charisma to them.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson