Cheik Lô and Toumani Diabate
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Cheik Lô
Lamp Fall
Nonesuch (

Toumani Diabate
Boulevard de l'Indépendance
World Circuit (

While some observers rightfully worry about the fading of traditional music in Africa, some African artists are cross-pollinating traditional elements to create hybrids that are as beautiful as they are varied.

Senegal's Cheik Lô has the expected Afro-Cuban cuts on his latest, Lamp Fall, but he also teams with Brazilian musicians, most notably on "Sénégal-Brésil," where he harnesses the deep rumble of a 40-strong Brazilian drum corps. Lô has not been a megastar, but this, his third album, shows him building a powerful legacy of great music. The widened palette here seems an effortless stretch. He and his tight band swing to reggae as well as Senegalese mbalax, while giving each a bit of a twist.

On Boulevard de l'Indépendance, Malian kora player Toumani Diabate performs with what he calls the Symmetric Orchestra, an ensemble of traditional and modern instruments from Africa and the rest of the world. While the kora has been matched with non-traditional instruments before, this album seems the fully realized dream of harmonizing African and western elements. It has the excitement of an artist finally getting a chance to work on a large canvas. When the orchestra grabs hold of a slamming rhythm, as it does on "Salsa," the maelstrom it kicks up creates music that seems to populate its own genre. - Marty Lipp

Available from
Lamp Fall
Boulevard de l'Indépendance

Other CDs by these artists available from cdRoots

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