Abdoulaye "Djoss" Diabate - Fula Flute
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Fula Flute
Mansa America

Abdoulaye "Djoss" Diabate
Both titles: www.fulaflute.net

There are enough African musicians living and working in the U.S. that no one has to worry any longer about the resulting music not sounding authentic. And when you've got some North Americans who know what they're doing in on the action, that doesn't hurt either. In fact it can make for mutually beneficial understanding, musically and culturally. New York City-based band Fula Flute is a good example: a mix of players from both sides of the Atlantic who build their decidedly traditional sound around kora, balafon and dual tambin flutes that play off one another with an emotional range as wide as that of human voices at times. Bass provides some bottom end and an intriguing horn section shows up at one point, but the music on Mansa America otherwise sounds straight out of griot tradition. Balafon and kora bounce complimentary melodic lines back and forth, the flutes whisper and scream and the lengthy tracks (including the heartfelt if rather obligatory-sounding "Obama"), have that African lilt that can be captured on American soil, no matter what a few stubborn purists might insist.

Though nearly the entire Fula Flute ensemble is present on Sara, it's their singer Abdoulaye "Djoss" Diabate who gets sole cover billing and whose voice is prominent throughout. The feel is different too, more akin to the Afropop side of Salif Keita, complete with an additional pair of percussionists, a guitarist, and female vocalists, with marginally faster arrangements and a sense of storytelling that emphasizes the words as much as the music. But like Mansa America, there's an abundance of genuine African spirit in these predominantly acoustic pieces. Diabate and his mates deliver a set of shimmering songs like the title track, the story of an arranged marriage that should never have been. - Tom Orr

Listen to an excerpt from Mansa America

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