Kasse Mady Diabaté
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Kasse Mady Diabaté
Kassi Kasse: Music from the Heart of Mali's Griot Tradition
Discos Corason / Narada, US (www.narada.com)

cd cover While he may be a new name to Western listeners, Kasse Mady Diabaté is definitely not new to the Mande music scene. He is, in fact, a veteran of Malian bands Super Mande, Cuban-trained Las Maravillas de Mali, and National Badema de Mali, as well as collaborations such as Songhai 2 with Toumani Diabaté and Kulanjan with Taj Mahal. Kassi Kasse should help to correct his lack of notoriety as a soloist in the West.

From the family of famed griot praise singers, Diabaté is one of the most versatile. This, along with the attention to restrained acoustic production, makes Kassi Kasse a pleasure to listen to. With complicated electronic instrumentation in international disfavor, the unwired approach of this album will please listeners who have had enough of drum machines and digitized hand clapping. Kora, djembe, and balafon rule the roost on Kassi Kasse. Diabaté sticks to his roots but the arrangements on this album show a deceptive calm and simplicity, and a great sensitivity and understanding of diverse music - Cuban in particular. Fans of Cuban music or its West African versions - revived recently by groups like Senegal's Orchestre Baobab and Guinea's Bembeya Jazz ­ will enjoy the restrained swing of "Maimouna" and "Balomina Mwanga," and note the tasteful use of the flute throughout the album. Other songs like "Jon Kunandi" seem to bear traces of Diabaté's other eclectic collaborations. Of course, Diabaté shines in straightforward Mande swing style, such as on the polished opener "Eh Ya Ye" or the pleasantly simple "N'i Ma Sori," which highlights the sublime possibilities in combining kora with vocals and leaving out extras.

In a time of international strife, the soothing sounds of Kasse Mady Diabaté are a much needed tonic to strident rhetoric and worse ­ and at over an hour of music, it's well worth it. - Craig Tower

CD available at cdRoots

Audio ©(p)2002 Discos Corason, S.A. Mexico, administered by Nara Music, Inc. in the U.S. and used by permission

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