Nahawa Doumbia


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Malian diva Nahawa Doumbia has developed through her albums, but this represents a quantum leap in her career. Working with French producer/guitarist Claude Barthélémy, this is a defining album, one which showcases the subtlety of her music. There's a strong Wassoulou (southern Mali) sensibility to the music which uses the pentatonic scale (familiar to Westerners through blues and rock); it's wonderfully hypnotic on "Minia," before exploding into a rhythm-fest on "Sisse," where guitar and percussion power the music along under Doumbia's elegantly rough voice. But it's not just the performance, although the mix of ancient and modern is wonderfully balanced, the electric guitar finding room for itself without ever smothering Doumbia's band or voice; it's the material, a collection of nagging, infectious songs like the glorious "N'tana," which insinuates itself in the brain, based around a riff on the kamale n'goni. But that's merely one highlight in a complete program of delights. The centerpiece, however, might be the long "Foly," which builds over the course of seven minutes into a mesmerizing tour de force for Doumbia and her musicians before coming down slowly on the a cappella "Demisen." Beautiful.

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