Bako Dagnon


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Malian singer Bako Dagnon's voice has a grit and power that will likely remind listeners of Salif Keita. Unlike Keita, though, there's no attempt, no matter how slight, at pop crossover. If you're interested in authenticity and tradition, this album, featuring primarily acoustic instruments (guitar and gentle percussion), traditional melodies, and call-and-response vocals, will make you happy; Dagnon and her producers have made every effort to keep the music sounding "world music-ish." She takes a soulful lead vocal as two or three other women sing backups like gentle breezes floating past. Dagnon's emotional voice, atop the repetitive guitar figures, recalls both the "African blues" of fellow Malians like Ali Farka Touré and flamenco. The lyrics, primarily in Bambara save "La Guide de la Révolution," which as its title suggests is sung in French, presumably deal with traditional topics, folklore, et cetera; Dagnon has been singing for over three decades, and Sidiba is her seventh album, though only the second to achieve release outside her homeland. Without understanding a word, it's possible to let this music drift from the speakers and fill the room with a paradoxically calm urgency.

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