Desert Blues 3: Entre Dunes Et Savanes
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Various Artists
Desert Blues 3: Entre Dunes Et Savanes
Network (www.networkmedien.de)

Since the first volume of this Network Medien series came out in 1995, the whole notion of "desert blues" has become more familiar, even to the point where not every song on a double CD like this has to necessarily fit the description (a description that, since first coined, has been open to varied interpretation anyway). All that's really needed are great songs from the Saharan regions, and there are loads of them here. Not a lot of the featured artists were on the first two volumes, so there's a healthy amount of freshness here.

You can start just about anywhere with blow-by-blow descriptions: rootsy rai from Khaled, elegant kora work by Toumani Diabate, rockish excursions courtesy of Tinariwen, etc. If you want a quick summation, the back cover offers one: "Recently discovered finest ballads from Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, Niger, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia." I suppose "finest ballads" does at least as well as "desert blues" in describing the music here, which represents everything from griot tradition to jazz and classical fusion. Actually, as more Saharan artists and countries increase their presence on the global music scene, collections like this will continue to be necessary in keeping up with the work of established stars (Gigi, Oumou Sangare, Habib Koite), newer or lesser-known names (Bako Dagnon, Idrissa Soumaoro) and even non-Africans who successfully get in on the action (Markus James, Kronos Quartet). There's over two hours of superb sounds on this set, the illustrated liner notes are informative and thoughtful, and it's essential listening even if you missed the first two installments - Tom Orr

CD available from cdRoots

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CD available from cdRoots

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