Coco Mbassi


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Cameroonian Coco Mbassi is blessed with a warm, rich voice that's full of invitation. Add to that a playful musical sensibility that stretches from the music of her native land to R&B-inflected material, and you've got a winner. She states her case eloquently with "Mbaki," a track that opens and closes the disc, where her persuasive singing is vibrant over bass and percussion. "Mundene" and "D" add strings for texture, but her voice is still very much front and center. The album gains colors slowly but effectively, reaching full bloom with "Muka Mwan," whose muted R&B tones work perfectly. But nowhere does this record go over the top -- there's always plenty of space in the music, and instruments are used sparingly to keep the focus on Mbassi. At its best, like "Mbombo," where she's accompanied by just piano, this is an absolute delight, and when she flies a cappella, as she does on "Bayedi," there's no stopping her. Without doubt, this is a mighty debut for a gifted singer.

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