Yet where Kaba Baba Djan fails, Cameroonian Henri Dikongué succeeds in
making C'est La Vie (Tinder Records, 1998) glow with acoustic ambiance.
Following the path of acoustic guitar legends like Congolese Jean Bosco
Mwenda Wa Bayeke and Wendo, the Cameroonian has stripped-down his music of
all the bells and whistles. The result is unadulterated music that soars
in bright breezy tempo even when it sings the blues.
Dikongue's real secret is the ability to use keen ears to peel away
unnecessary white noise, leaving behind a truly magnificent "heart" of the
music. He also knows what precisely to add to the brew, in this case the
piano, violin and an assortment of percussion instruments. Moreover, his
soft-sweet voice leads a vibrant chorus on tracks like "Na Tem Ite Idiba",
"We Nde Mba", "Bulu Bo Windi Tenge", and my personal Makossa favourite, " A
Poetic, yet folksy, "C'est la Vie" is an instant classic that will lighten
up a smile anywhere on the globe, be it in Mongolia, Yaunde or Kyoto,
Malouma, Mermaid of The Desert
Thanks to Mauritanian temptress, Malouma Mint Maideh, we now know the
location of the Garden of Eden- it is somewhere in the arid desert of
Mauritania. On her debut album, Desert of Eden (Shanachie, 1998), Malouma
kindles a rare flame with her explosive rap/R&B/rai/pan-African medley that
transforms simple desert lyrics into hopping, hip-grinding anthems strong
enough to turn heads in Harlem.
To achieve her unique urban blend, Malouma got plenty of help from
Senegalese producer Pape Dieng who doubled on the drums and tabla, bassist
Pathe Djassy and guitarist Oumar Sow. What's more, the whole shebang was
recorded at Youssou N'Dour's Xippi Studio in Dakar.
Yet there is no mistaking the Arabic "hills and valleys" singing style
popular in Mauritanian folk melody as Malouma weaves one hit song after
another while skillfully plucking on the ardine, a traditional instrument
exclusively played by women. She reigns supreme on "Rasm", "Eden", "Ya
Maliha" and "Ya Habibi" with their haunting beauty and simplicity.
But my absolute favourite track (and I have listened to it more than a
hundred times) is the catchy "Soura" with its free-wheeling scattering
rhythm. In the rising dust, Malouma's voice is solid and commanding as she
channels energy all around her. The lasting image is that of a conquering
Joan of Eden, charging forward for an opening, ready to take on the world.
We have not heard the last from this mermaid of the desert.