Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Mali

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Banking on Mali being the next Cuba in market-crossing ability, Putumayo is pulling out all the stops on their newest Mali-specific compilation. Old stars and new critical favorites are here, covering every aspect of the nation's music from the traditional to the electronic. Habib Koité, already in the Putumayo stable, contributes a pair of contemporary guitar-based tracks. Old blueshand Boubacar Traoré, as well as Idrissa Soumaoro, long ago from les Ambassadeurs, contribute a track each showcasing the driving West African blues style. Also in the blues vein is Ramatou Diakité from the southern end of the nation. A relative rarity in West African albums is the Saharan influence, but here a Tuareg band makes an appearance with a thump that would make Ali Farka Toure proud. The sublime Keletigui Diabate shows off an original on the balofon -- a little slower than some of his older stuff, but the man recorded this one at 70. Somewhere near the end of the album, Issa Bagayogo tosses in an excellent fusion track, as does Mamou Sidibe. Both provide a very encouraging look at what's yet to come from the country (though Bagayogo already has a few hits under his belt). A tad above the usual breadth of a Putumayo album, and of an exceptional caliber musically all around.

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