Tarika, that irrepressible bunch from the spicy island of Madagascar have hit an all time high with the release of Son Egal (Green Linnet). This album is an exciting collaboration between the Tarika Quintet and Kauwding Cisokko and Massamba Diop, two highly talented artists from Senegal. The project was about redressing the ills of history- in this case the massacre that took place when soldiers from Senegal and other African countries were used by the French to suppress uprisings in Madagascar in the late 1940s. Thousands died in those harsh years.

But this is not funeral music, rather it is a vibrant testimony of the joie de vivre that exists on the island today in spite of all the bad things in its history. The songs are tightly written, the vocal harmonies have never sounded better. Every single track is an audio feast of intricately woven arrangements that shimmer with exuberant voices, colourful percussions and killer string instruments. The music is as entertaining as it is reflective.

Meanwhile from West Africa, Mory Kante reinforced his image as the runaway techno-griot with his latest disco-based release titled Tatebola (Misslin). The Kora master could never be accused of abandoning tradition because he still uses the 21-string kora, the ngoni and assorted African percussions to serve hot rock dance music. Moreover, he sings in Malinke, his native tongue.

However, Tatebola is anything but traditional. It is pop music aimed directly at the Charts. It is hip-hop meets Madinka rhythm in the Bronx. It is great stuff for Parisian punk-heads to jump and dance to. It is a feel good disco beat easily forgotten. Only the track "On yarama foulbeh" testifies to the true majestic talent of Kante the Griot. But this is too little too late. In the end, one is left with a persistent nasty feeling that the world is losing one of the best kora players and vocalists ever to come out of Africa. And that is a truly depressing thought.

On a cheery note, Djeli Fode Kouyate a little known griot has hit the international scene with a modern-traditional album titled Djelia (Celluloid). This is a beautiful piece of music from Guinea/Mali; it flows like sweet spring water out of ancient rock. The Kora is impertinent without losing its regal bearing. There is ample resonance in Kouyate's voice as he explores the traditional mores of the griot. The back-up chorus is classical Mali. Djeli Moussa Kouyate is superb on the keenly tuned acoustic guitar. Check out the tracks "Kombi", "Soweto" and "Bangali". Now, if only they could make more of this kind of music...

Finally, Toronto based Tarig Abubakar and the AfroNubians have broken loose with Hobey Laik (Festival Records), their third album in as many years. But rather than serve more of the brisk happy dance music that worked so well in The Great Africans (1995, Festival Records) and Tour to Africa (1994, Stern's), this album pours forth riveting horns, grinding Afro-percussions, and pounding rhythm guitars, all in their right measures. Nothing is wasted where it should not be. The result is titillating listening music you can dance to.

Indeed, whether he sings in Arabic or English, Tarig resonates with mellow maturity that speaks of deep passion and conviction. A keen listener of urban music sounds, Tarig has moved toward music that appeals to everyone, Africans and non-Africans.

Hobey Laik blends the cosmopolitan sounds of reggae, rumba, traditional Arabic ballads, soukous and contemporary West African dance music. The introduction of the 21-stringed kora on one of the tracks was a master stroke. The outcome is music that is urgent, endearing and engaging.

And now the envelop please, for AfroDisc Top Ten African Albums of the Month:

The previous edition of Afrodisc is available

Opiyo Oloya is the host of the radio program Karibuni on CIUT 89.5 FM Radio, Toronto. The show airs on Saturday 4:00 PM- 5:00 PM.
E-Mail: Stvincen@inforamp.net

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