Various Artists

Mali Lolo: Stars of Mali

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Mali Lolo: Stars of Mali is pretty much what the title implies: Mali's biggest musical acts collected to show the breadth of modern Malian music. However, there are a number of things about this recording that are done so well that this compilation goes to the head of the class as far as Malian collections are concerned. Smithsonian Folkways has been documenting indigenous musics for decades now. This time out, rather than attempt to document each artist with its own resources, Smithsonian Folkways has wisely decided to simply license tracks from existing albums on other labels. The end result is a recording filled with great productions, something that otherwise would have been cost-prohibitive given the star power involved. Also, on this collection, not only do they supply information on the songs themselves and artist biographies, but give a good background on the various musical traditions and from what groups and regions they emanate. The bottom line, of course, is the music, and compiler Jon Kertzer has done a wonderful job. Some productions sound decidedly more modern than others, but traditional Malian music is never left behind. Besides the human voice, guitar, kora, and balafon are the main sounds, even among the more contemporary productions like those of Habib Koité and Oumou Sangaré. From the traditional kora sounds of Toumani Diabate to the African blues of Ali Farka Toure to the updated Wassoulou sounds of Oumou Sangaré, Mali Lolo has much to offer. Very well done.

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