Malouma

Nour

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Malouma (whose full name is Malouma Mint Moktat Ould Meidah) is a Mauritanian griotte who keeps pushing at the boundaries between ancient and modern -- and this release is no exception to that. In fact, it's probably the most satisfying fusion she's come up with to date. The linchpin to that isn't so much Malouma herself, excellent as she is, but French guitarist Pierre Fruchard, whose contributions are seminal to the sound here, whether it's the feedback that propels the last part of "Nebine" or the sustained notes on "Lemra." But he operates within the more traditional song framework of call and response and heavy percussion. There's a strong streak of desert blues on the album, perhaps most evident on "Kentawaiyate." Malouma's developed into a wonderfully expressive singer who can brings nuances of emotion to her material, as she proved on "Chtib." A number of West African acts have mined similar territory, but this once achieves a strong balance quite effortlessly, taking advantage of the tension between cultures to produce some real art.

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