Oumou Sangare
World Circuit (1989, reissue in US 1999)

She is a singer of strength and soul. She is strong and smooth, and achieves her goal in a cry and a whisper rather than a shout and a whirlwind. While there is no denying the chill you get from the upper register soaring of someone like Nahawa Doumbia, there is a warmth and determination that exudes from Sangare. She is Lady Day to Doumbia's Aretha. The arrangements are something else, as well. Recorded in Abidjan with local musicians, it is a wonderful blend of producer Sylla's urban and Sangare's regional sensibilities.

There is evidence of modern touches in these songs, but they are carried out on nkoni, shakers and bongos, guitars (including Sangare), chorus, and some coarse violin. Only the bass is allowed to provide an electric touch, and it absolutely throbs most of the time. The rhythms are complex and lively, without ever resorting to a dancehall groove. "Ah Ndiya" best exemplifies the whole sound, using strong unison lines from the instruments to respond to the imploring vocals. You can feel for the stories about the conflict between family responsibility and modern life in each note. There is intricacy here, but it is never clouded over by too much production. - CF (1989)

This recording has lost none of its power over the past decade. It is still a treasure for those who have it, and a must-have for those who are only know learning of Sangare's range and power. (Cliff Furnald,1999)

photo ©1999 Oliver Gresset

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