Thionne Seck is not well known to the world, but to Senegalese, he is the best kept secret since the mbalax sound (hard tama drums and driving rhythm) became hip in the late 80s and 90s. On his international debut album titled Daaly (Stern's Records), Seck combines very rare emotive voice, horns and of course, the tamas to rival anything ever to come out of Senegal.

On tunes like Mbarodi, Daaly, Momy, Diyelo and Madiguen, Seck is transformed into a griot par excellence, molding the storyline with his voice before stepping aside to allow the gritty mbalax sound to finish the job. The stirring voice kindles a sharp flame in the belly often associated with great oratory or inspiring work of art. The result is music that grabs and holds onto you for many days, possibly weeks, demanding to be played over and over to calm the burning fever.

Compilations of music by African women is nothing new, but Holding Up The Sky (Shanachie) offers something different. It includes well known names like Miriam Makeba and Angelique Kidjo alongside lesser known, but equally talented artists like Kine Lam (Senegal), Malouma Mint Miadeh (Mauritania), Aicha Kone (Ivory Coast) and Ami Koita (Mali).

The mix allows for a truly vibrant variety of voices and musical styles ranging from Cape Town to Cairo. In the process, Holding Up The Sky, reveals what few people know, namely that African music is often initiated and crafted by women before men take over to claim credit.

Whether it is Tshala Muana's Mutuashi or Stella Shiweshe's Mbira Jive, this album offers a rich flavour for new fans of African music. Veterans who already know the field, will still find this eclectic selections worth every penny.

And talking about Mbira Jive, Chris "Murewa" Berry, an American who is well integrated into the Shona culture, has just released Marimba ava Murewa (Zimbob). It is remarkable in itself that an American could learn to sing and play Shona instrument as if he was born in the culture.

But more so because this album blends traditional mbira with urban sound with good results. The strength comes from the luxuriant instrumentation where carefully calibrated mbira plays hide and seek with the marimba, before surfacing together to create beautiful harmony. Consider this a significant first release by an artist with keen ears for Zimbabwean music.

Finally, the much anticipated third album by Uganda multi-instrumentalist Samite, is out. Silina Musango ( Xenophile) is a delicate piece of work that radiates from traditional Baganda folk music. Samite is a story-teller at heart and his music flutters like colourful butterflies on a summer day on the Equator. His approach on this album has been to keep the drums dancing with soft resonance, the kalimba jingling with metallic life and the voice, intimate. Think of a moonlit night, when all is silent and the song of a young lover floats through the night air, traversing valleys and mountains. There ought to be magic there.

The Afrodisc Top Ten for April:

1. Thionne Seck (1997) Daaly. Stern's Africa (Senegal)

2. Tarika (1997) Son Egal. Xenophile (Madagascar)

3. Various Artists (1997) Divas of Mali. Shanachie (Mali)

4. Samite (1997) Silina Musango. Xenophile (Uganda)

5. Mbilia Bel, Rigo Star (1997) Yalowa. Ima records (Zaire)

6. Various Artists (1997) Holding Up Half the Sky: Voices of African Women. Shanachie (Africa)

7. Tshala Muana (1996) Mutuashi. Stern's Music. (Zaire)

8. Musa Kala Deng (1997) Shakawtu- Faith. Shanachie. (Senegal)

9. Tarig Abubakar & AfroNubians (1997) Hobey Laik. Festival Distribution (Sudan)

10. Mory Kante (1997) Tatebola. Misslin Records (Mali/Guinea)

The current edition is
The previous edition of Afrodisc is also available There is also a full menu of African reviews on RootsWorld, cataloged by country.

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.

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