Tassoumakan - Issa Bagayogo
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Issa Bagayogo
Six Degrees (www.sixdegreesrecords.com)

cd cover Pleasant and stirring up to a point, Issa Bagayogo's brand of Afro-electro nevertheless wears thin over the course of this CD's 66 minutes. This is Bagayogo's third release, and though his n'goni lute playing and vocal skills retain their dry cool, the westernized techno textures that turn what would otherwise be traditional dance music into modern dance music tend to make you forget the African roots at the core of it all. Which is not to say that Bagayogo's distinctly cutting-edge music won't move you. It will, and there are standout tracks here. The percolating dance feel of "Koroto" is nice, as is "Touba" with its restless rhythm and chilled-to-perfection vocals. And the tracks that explore varying levels of blues and funk ("Kanou," "Dya Bana") and griot-like pensiveness ("Dya," "Joola") are likewise rewarding. Most of the album just doesn't stick, though. It's hard to pinpoint the problem - perhaps some organic percussion helping the relentlessly cold programmed beats or more earthly additions like the flute that surfaces now and then would help. It's by no means a bad album, but to my ears it doesn't strike the right balance of ancient and modern and thus doesn't have the kind of staying power that would merit repeated listening. - Tom Orr

CD available from cdRoots

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