Touré Kunda


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Though they had recorded a couple of albums for Celluloid prior to this one, Natalia was the first Touré Kunda release actually produced by Bill Laswell. This has its plus and minus aspects, though the minuses are fairly small. Fans who preferred this wonderful Senegalese band at their least-Westernized might be put off by the increased production values that do, certainly, smooth out some of their attractive rougher edges and give the proceedings more of a rockish veneer. There's a little something lost from the atmosphere of Casamance au Clair de Lune, for example. On the other hand, when they weren't striving for a more authentic indigenous sound, Touré Kunda was quite capable of spreading the kitsch on rather thickly and Laswell perhaps reined in that tendency, partly by utilizing the talents of several from his regular stable, including Bernie Worrell and Nicky Skopelitis (the latter heard clearly on the last track). What results is a good, solid album showcasing the brothers' tremendous vocal gifts and extremely catchy song structures. Songs like "Nidiaye" have a timeless, poignant lyricism that's all but impossible to submerge. Natalia is a perfect introduction to this group after which the listener can proceed in either direction, toward a more roots-oriented approach or a more pop-flavored one -- or both.

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