Issa Sow - Doumale - La Musique D'Issa Sow
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Issa Sow
Doumale - La Musique D'Issa Sow
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When the big, architectural European strings hit your ears on the first track of this release, you're thinking, "Oh, no, not another one of those over-orchestrated 'world music' mash-ups." Then Issa Sow's scratchy, one-stringed nianidoru comes in, closely followed by his earnest, slightly nasal voice and all is right. Yes, the orchestra, made up primarily of European musicians, plays a big role in this CD, but it is used so tastefully that it doesn't stomp all over Sow's music. Absent are the slick, saccharine arrangements that mar so many African/European collaborations. (I'm looking at you, Ladysmith Black Mambazo!) Here, the strings contribute sweeping accents, luscious with trills in the Egyptian manner, but they back off when asked to. The tug-of-war between the earthy and the refined is what makes this work worth listening to. The slapping percussion, sparkling kora, and coarse niandoru carry the day. In "Rendo Fulo," Sow kicks things off with a rhapsodic solo, to which a violinist (presumably Wouter Vandenabeele - the liner notes don't specify) responds. The contrast works well, like a north-meets-south handshake. "Daaniyanke" has a great roll to it, set up by the orchestra, then dovetailed by Sow and kora player Bao Cissohko. It's a great, groove-heavy jam. "Garbare" is raw and intense, the niandoru crying under grunted, percussive vocals and popping, understated drums.

But back to those liner notes - tiny, dark print on a black background - really? And how hard would it be to credit the musicians on each track? There are several vocalists listed in the general credits, but it would be nice to know who's singing when. So, save your eyes and let your ears lap up the delicious sounds. - Peggy Latkovich

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