Kalindi-Ka, with Marie-Line Dahomay
A group leader since forming Katoure in 1987, Marie-Line Dahomay, a vital voice from Guadeloupe, brings us back-to-roots 'gwo ka' with her new outfit, Kalindi-Ka. Gwo ka, along with the Martinican chouval bwa, is the musical basis on which the globally popular zouk developed. Traditionally led by male singers, Dahomay has claimed gwo ka as her own; she and her call-and-response female chorus bring to us the joys and sorrows of being a woman in the Antilles. A festival music from the hills of Guadeloupe, gwo ka is a participatory voice-and-drum music with rich, layered harmonies reminiscent of South African iscathamiya combined with West African style polyrhythmic drumming.
Dahomay (the name itself evocative of Mother Africa) has a mature, commanding voice with a tempering vibrato that effectively leads and anchors the group's sound. There is more than gwo ka here, as the album contains cuts ranging from Dahomay plaintively singing solo (accompanying herself on the ektara, an Indian one-stringed instrument) to a piece that incorporates a jazzy muted trumpet. The traditional ka drum is joined on some numbers by djembe, conga, and bata for a more pan-Afro feel. The studio reverb distances the CD from the context of festival, and at 43 minutes it is on the short side, but overall it is one that I can recommend highly, especially to those who want to explore the roots of zouk. - John Cho
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