Mandekalou: Art & Soul Of The Mande Griots

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Syllart/Discovery
PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: 79663-2

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The last two albums feature, in different guises, the high-art Mande griot tradition of West Africa. The one-time Mande powerbase straddled what is now the border between Mali and Guinea.

Musical traditions remained hereditary and until recently most artists could trace their ancestry back through many generations. But great griot names are by no means a thing of the past and the idea behind Mandekalou, a long-standing dream of its producer Sylla Ibrahima, was to bring together some of the finest griots to make a recording that would stand as definitive for its age.

Whether or not it does so more effectively than the sum of the participants’ discographies, the album has drawn some stunning singing from a range of voices, elaborate, expressive and intense, the women nowadays as powerful as the men, their Muslim inflections backed by an extraordinary, quietly flamboyant band of guitars and traditional strings (even the bass is acoustic).

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Imagine: Kasse Mady, Kandia Kouyate, Sekouba Bambino and more, plus the cream of instrumentalists, not in a compilation but sharing performances as well as disc space.