Thione Seck


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It's interesting: not long after Senegal's Youssou N'Dour released his very different but celebrated Egypt, countryman Seck -- always a contender but never the champion -- came out with the relatively similar Orientation. Both were recorded a few years previously, and both take the singers into the Arabic world of swirling Egyptian strings in glorious fashion. Both come from the mbalax style, very rhythmic and powerful, and emerge into a world of flowing melody. What's most notable is that Seck, the lesser-known name, might have released the more satisfying disc. Seck has always had a more theatrical style, carrying the influence of Bollywood soundtracks, and it serves him particularly well here. The musicians -- from both Egypt and India -- make a glorious, complex noise, with some well-crafted and often inspired arrangements, while Seck wails melismatically over the top, giving everything to each song. Yes, it's a big widescreen production, but never completely over the top. Instead, it's the album of Seck's career -- but unfortunately is likely to suffer in comparison with the N'Dour CD, and be seen as a touch of bandwagon jumping. The irony is that, had Orientation been released when it was completed three years previously, it could have made Seck into a massive star. As it is, hardly anyone probably knows it's out.

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