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cd cover It's been a good season for African musicians making their comeback after years of absence from touring and recording. First it was Samba Mapangala coming alive with the celebratory Ujumbe; now Eyuphuro has returned with the kaleidoscopic Yellela. Despite its folk origins, the music assembled here is varied and, in parts, quite sophisticated. Underpinning it all is the plaintive contralto of Zena Bacar, with her trademark catch-in-the-throat inflections, showcased in the yearning "Othiawene" (My Faraway Love). There are echoes of the Caribbean in the Cuban swing of the aforementioned song as well as in the calypsonian vocal lilt of "Ayaka" (My Husband), while Mahamudo Selimane's multitracked minor-key electric guitar lines invoke a melancholy Iberian sensibility. A rolling 6/8 beat is used on some cuts, which, together with the close third harmonies provided by Issufo Manuel (who composed half the songs), calls to mind Malagasy music. The lyrics of Manuel lament the problems afflicting much of Africa, while Bacar delivers stinging feminist messages in hers. The only glitch here is the severe intonation problem of the sax solo on "Ethuila Exeni" - the producer should have caught that one. Otherwise, this is a very fine and thoughtful album. - John Cho

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