Sousou and Maher Cissoko

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Sousou and Maher Cissoko
Africa Moo Baalu
ARC Music ( )

If you've lost track of how many great kora players there are who bear the name Cissoko, join the club. Setting Sousou and Maher Cissoko apart is the fact that they're a husband and wife team. Sousou is from Sweden whereas Maher hails from Senegal, a land far more affiliated with the 22-stringed instrument that both he and Sousou wield gracefully. Africa Moo Baalu isn't an Afro-Scandinavian fusion (one of the duo's previous releases, titled Stockholm-Dakar, was), but instead sticks fairly close to the feel of African Mandinka tradition. No one who loves getting entranced by the celestial sounds of the kora is likely to have any objections to this record either. Granted, there are plenty of great albums out there that feature the kora as the primary instrument and no shortage of those that have dueling koras.

Africa Moo Baalu (Leaders of Africa) handily holds its own alongside just about any of them as well as getting an extra boost from the way Sousou and Maher's shadowy side-by-side vocals compliment the subtle yet intense symbiosis of the koras. Tracks that sway and bob in that characteristically meditative manner of most kora-centered music are plentiful here, plus a few more aggressive turns where standup bass and percussion play a meatier role and the mood picks up speed. But the koras and vocals, including some sung in English, are the consistent starring attractions that give these songs of love, strife and many points in between such seemingly effortless power and beauty. - Tom Orr

Further reading:
Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita
Mamadou Diabate


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