AfroDisc
By Opiyo Oloya
A Jewel from Senegal

fatou The line-up of new African female vocalists has added yet another impressive debutante, a young Senegalese jewel named Fatou Guewel. Her debut album Fatou (Stern's - www.sternsmusic.com) is making waves all over Africa. Listening to the album, it is easy to understand why. Unlike her famous countrymen Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour, who have westernized their music, Fatou sticks to the classic hard-edged mbalax which is favored on the streets of Senegal. Throughout the album, Fatou is revealed as a gifted artist for whom singing comes easily. This and her driving rhythm make her one of the best female vocalists to come from Africa in a long time.

She deliberately loads her music with extra percussion whose collective effect is riveting. Leading the chorus with her razor sharp Wolof voice, she captures the raw street emotion as never before. In tracks like "Ya Mako Diaral" the music builds gradually until it reaches a sparkling crescendo that leaves you absolutely breathless.

No doubt, the formidable talent shown by Fatou will not go unnoticed in the male dominated world of African music. Now, more than ever, the Baaba Maals of this world will have to throw nervous glances over their shoulders. And, you know something, we will all be the richer for it.

The Troubadour and Soukous Man

Dabire The liner note describes Gabin Dabire as "Burkina Faso's leading musician and poet" but listen to Kontome (Amiata - www.amiatamedia.com) and you will instantly recognize his universal appeal, the warm music that speaks beyond the narrow confines of Burkina Faso or even Africa. This may be partly explained by the fact that Dabire wields the acoustic guitar in the same troubadour tradition of African guitar legends like Jean Bosco Mwenda, S.E. Rogie and Ali Farka Toure. However, he is truly original in layering various sounds over each other. Each song is indelibly stamped with Dabire's unmistakable trademark tapestry whereby the sound of one instrument is woven into the next, creating sparkling sound waves.

There is something in the man's rich troubadour voice which is at once intense and radiant. Listen to him sing "Yoro Wolou," "Bi Gbaale Za" and Siza. When placed in the context of the guitar and an assortment of instruments, Dabire's voice breaks through cultural confines to reach the larger world audience where the only thing that matters is beautiful music.

Toronto based Showdoman has given soukous lovers another excuse to hit the dance floor. In fact, for his latest album Entente Cordiale (Outside Music), Showdoman scored a coup by recruiting the creme de la creme of Congo's vocal scene including Papa Wemba, crooner Koffi Olomide, Nyboma and many others.

And if that was not enough, Showdoman reaches deep into roots rumba, allowing each song to evolve naturally toward a dust raising climax. Veteran guitarists Syran Mbenza, Lokassa Ya Mbongo and Japonais keep the music crisp, sharp and rolling on "Congo Mayeya" and my favorite, "Rocco Massala."

However, Showdoman shows true grit (and a very Canadian predisposition for accommodating others) when he sings three tracks in English- "Africa Motherland," "Leave Me Alone" and "I Love You." This may be the one of the first times English is used successfully in soukous instead of Lingala and French.

Perhaps the only draw-back in featuring mega-stars on the album is that Showdoman is occasionally buried under their brilliance. But, the indomitable show man always emerges stronger, confident and in control, making this one of the best soukous album so far in 1999.

Compilation Nation

Kings The nice thing about compiling several artists on one disc is the variety of music. The flip side of that is the possibility of jamming the album with music no one wants to listen to. Luckily, Kings of African Music and its twin, Queens of African Music ( both Music Club - www.musicclub.com) are filled with some of the best talents from the continent.

There is no question that compiler Rick Glanvil wanted this to be a hit parade and he has succeeded. The kings include stars like Youssou N'Dour, Ali Farka Toure, Franco, Manu Dibango, Thomas Mapfumo, Baaba Maal and more. The queens include big names like Angelique Kidjo, Mbilia Bel, Amy Koita, Tarika, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and many others.

Perhaps the best part of the two albums is the sensible balance between dance and listening music. For instance, while Kanda Bongoman's "Zing Zong" is a floor scorcher, Ali Farka Toure's "Hawa Dolo" is more reflective. And while Mbilia Bel offers pepper hot soukous, Oumou Sangare's "Djorolen" makes you sit up and listen. This pattern is repeated successfully throughout the two albums.

- Opiyo Oloya


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 Sunday, 6:00 PM- 8:00 PM. CUIT is now available via Real Audio G2 at www2.ciut.utoronto.ca
E-Mail: oloyao@ycdsb.edu.on.ca


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