Pierre Akendengué


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On Maladalité, produced by his Lambarena collaborator Hughes de Courson, Akendengue delivers some of his finest work to date, thus making it the most accessible recording of his career and a good start to familiarize oneself with this great Gabonese artist. Due to the richness in musical ideas and the depth of his lyrics, it must also be seen as one of the quintessential albums of world music in the '90s. With the first "Maladalité" and last track "Ewulupupa" being a kind of philosophical "bracket," in the songs in between, Akendengue tells simple but in-depth stories of African life. The word "maladalité" being a word game by merging the two French words malade (sick) and alité (confined to bed), he uses this image of an ailing continent in "Ewulupupa" for painting a picture of an imaginary contemporary African state. This state has four boundaries: debt in the North, elections financed by foreigners in the East, famine and war in the South, oil fields and occupying troops in the West. Unfortunately the lyrics are only reprinted in French, which requires a good grasp of the language to dive into Akendengue's lyrical world. The music consists of multi-layered interplays between different vocal setups (check out "Maladalité" or "Ghetaabee" for an example of how complex this can become), not to mention the general musical craftsmanship throughout the album. Furthermore, Akendengue delivers with "Eau Claire," "R'Ragnambié," "Akewa," and "Double Distance," some of the most stunning ballads that will linger on some time. Whereas Akendengue is the brainchild of all songs, it is the collective effort of his performing ensemble which pulls the project off, and each musician deserves credit for an outstanding performance.

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