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  • cd cover Following its successful eight-year old formula of assembling the very best Latin and African artists to record an album, Africando returns with Mandali. The heavy hitters include Mali's power-house Salif Keita, Congolese lark Lokua Kanza, NY's Ronnie Baro, Congo's Koffi Olomide, Guinea's Sekouba Bambino, and Thionne Seck, who is, arguably, the best mbalax-soul singer around. Against the crisp rumba, mambo, son and bolero served by the crack Latin section, the album follows one credo: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There are two or three "filler" tracks that are innocuous enough to pass unnoticed, but the rest of the album bristles with versatility, inventiveness and spontaneity as each singer brings his special idiom into the music. Salif Keita's "Ntoman" is very distinct from Koffi Olomide's rumba tune "Mopao." It is difficult to escape the heart-stopping salsa track, "Miye Na We," sung entirely in Kiswahili by Lokua Kanza. The recording continues with "Sey" by Thionne Seck and, my favorite, "Carpintero" sung by Africando veteran Ronnie Baro. Therein lies the irreverence of Mandali, which serves to break through musical borders and open the floodgates of joy, allowing everyone to feel, breath and live the music. - Opiyo Oloya

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