Coco Mbassi - Sepia
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Coco Mbassi
Tinder Records (

cd cover Previously available (though not always easy to find), Coco Mbassi's fine Sepia will, with a little bit of luck, get more visibility via its North American release. Mbassi is from Cameroon, and after proving herself as a session singer in Paris was able to record this debut disc. Her smooth style is likely to shake up a few notions about African music. Yes, there are some rhythmically alive selections here, but also a high quotient of songs in which Mbassi's multi-tracked voice is all by itself or accompanied only by piano, an acoustic guitar or a string section with not a percussion instrument to be heard. The approach gives her music the same sort of intimacy as fellow Cameroonian Richard Bona, as well as some nice variety of its own. Mbassi strongly embraces the Christian faith, and the Jesus-centered viewpoint espoused in the translated Duala lyrics favors love and understanding over fire and brimstone. "Bila" cries out against unjustified war in a most timely way, "Muka Mwam" is a plea to God for guidance, and tracks like "Stabat" and "Iwiye" emphasize percussion backing to accentuate the no-apologies spiritual message prevalent from beginning to end. Lovers of the softer side of African music will want this for its meditative aura and subtle effective use of classical and jazz shadings. - Tom Orr

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