Macire Sylla

Maya Irafama

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Like so many other African countries, Guinea has both traditional tribal griots and modern, Western-influenced pop artists; Maciré Sylla is an appealing example of the latter. Maya Irafama, her second album in the U.S., contains elements of traditional West African music, but it is very much a pop album -- and on tracks like "Njama" and "Wombéré," she provides a very fresh-sounding East/West hybrid. African-American R&B (both classic Northern soul and urban contemporary) is a major influence on this chance-taking CD; like a lot of the R&B singers who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, Sylla manages to be sleek and gritty at the same time. If you can envision a West African pop equivalent of Evelyn "Champagne" King or Chaka Khan, you can imagine what Maya Irafama sounds like. And R&B isn't the only Western style that has influenced Sylla; Afro-Brazilian and jazz elements occasionally assert themselves, and the singer employs a reggae beat on "Lagnifan" and "Dié." Enthusiastically recommended to lovers of African pop, Maya Irafama is an exciting example of the influence that black music from the Americas is having thousands of miles away in Africa.

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