Introducing Daby Balde
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cd cover Introducing Daby Balde
World Music Network (www.worldmusic.net)

As much as Senegal has already given the music world, make room for Moutarou "Daby" Balde, as well. He's from the culturally rich Casamance region, was born into an upper crust family and attended Koranic school. Many in his family circle were less than thrilled about his decision to be a musician, so he left his home country to knock around Guinea and the Gambia for a few years while honing his guitar and singing skills. By the mid-'90s he'd made a name for himself in Dakar and now, a decade later, his international debut is here for all to enjoy. Balde keeps things on the traditional side, with interlocked acoustic guitars and kora framing his vocals, which don't have the same piercing wail as, say, Baaba Maal, but get the point across with plaintive directness anyway. Skipping, swaying rhythms are fleshed out with percussion, bass, accordion, saxophone and violin (which sometimes gives the music the same tartness as Oumou Sangare's Malian wassoulou) while Balde's arrangements might put you in mind of unplugged Toure Kunda.

What really gets you is the way Balde works in subtle hooks, like the nervous calabash tapping and uncredited flute warbles on "Halaname" or the slightly sinister violin throughout "Mamadiyel," that make his songs of unity, good works and faith in God and man all the more worth wrapping your ears around. This isn't the "desert blues" of Ali Farka Toure or Boubacar Traore (though fans of those two will like it), nor does it reach for the polyrhythmic m'balax fever of Senegal's most famous son Youssou N'Dour. It's more along the lines of Ismael Lo- intimate and laid back but with a brooding quality that permeates like the sagely musings of an old friend. A most impressive introduction. - Tom Orr

CD available from cdRoots


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