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Carlou D
World Village (

I was a bit hesitant to spin this album when I read that Carlou D got his start with Senegalese hip hop group Positive Black Soul. Would Muzikr turn out to be a CD of African rap?

My prejudices and preconceived notions were entirely without merit, which is almost always the case. Muzikr (what you get when you combine music with zikr, a type of Sufi spiritual chant) has little connection to rap or hip hop. Rather, it’s a largely acoustic album of songs that are rhythmically related to Senegalese mbalax and inspired lyrically by the Baay Fall sect, Sufi Muslims who revere founder Cheikh Ibra Fall and place great value on artistic expression as a means to tap into the grace that flows from God to man. It was the very sort of grace that Carlou D, who had to support his family in place of his absentee father, combined with an outspoken directness in his work with Positive Black Soul and now on his own disc.

Acoustic guitar, bass and kora are frequent lead instruments here, atop swirling percussion on the livelier songs and more unadorned on the slower ones. After an opening musical prayer sets the tone and introduces us to Carlou D’s nimble voice, songs of African unity (“Nanioul,” “Meun Nako Def”), pilgrimage (“Ila Touba”), personal loss (“Namenala”) and even a tune recounting Carlou’s stint in the world’s first African opera (“Yaaboyo”), build to the climactic “Dieureudieufe Modou,” in which, yes, some rap-like chatting is unleashed. The disc is sharply paced, with a guest vocal by Youssou N’Dour at the halfway point of “Goree” and the last few cuts getting funkier but not glossier. A very impressive outing. The Senegalese music scene appears to have a bright new star on its hands. -Tom Orr

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