Ba Cissoko - Seno
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Ba Cissoko
Stern's Africa (

Guinea's Kimintan Cissoko comes from a long line of griots, and while there can be no doubt that his mastery of the 21-stringed kora came about as the result of a musical education that was to some degree traditional, he's got more on his mind. He wields one of two koras in his band Ba Cissoko; the other is electric. Vocally, he goes for an understated approach that both serves the instrumental backing and gets the point across.

It's evident from the opening flamenco/salsa title track that Seno is a disc that's going to mix and match with good results. Still, nothing breaks the mold too jarringly. The kora's natural acoustic beauty enjoys a place throughout songs that harness reggae ("Bambo," "Nina"), Afro-rock energy ("Africa Dance," the simply-named "Music"), meditative asides ("Gambia") and an embrace of the traditional ("Yadou," "Seumeu"). Cissoko lives up the family name via his mastery of his chosen instrument and, just as importantly, realizes that while kora fusion music is nothing new, it's certainly far from shopworn. So his just-experimental-enough approach balances familiarity and freshness as handily as other emerging kora talents like Sekou Keita. If the musical storytelling art of the griot is to be modernized, let it follow the example set by this warm, inviting and adventurous disc. - Tom Orr

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CD available from cdRoots

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