You think you're used to the way an instrument sounds. Then out of the blue someone comes along with a different idea. The kora, or 21-string African harp, is a case in point. Its cascade of notes can be lovely, often breathtaking. But listening to Senegal's Lao Kouyate is like opening a new window on the kora. He has a very spare, stylized way of playing, very introspective and moody, where one note can speak volumes. It's the product of much thought, almost minimalist in its approach, but starkly beautiful. His playing actually stands in sharp contrast to his very open voice, which has a warm pleasantness and charm, and frequent jazzy inflections. By rights those two parts of his music shouldn't work together; they contrast too much. Yet somehow he makes them fit and seem perfect together. If you love the kora, listen to Kouyate. He'll open your eyes to more of its possibilities.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson