Kante Manfila
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Popular African Music (via Stern's www.sternsmusic.com)

Kan kan This seductive and highly recommended album is the third recording in a series exploring the early musical influences of this Guinean guitar legend. Three songs on the album were recorded at the Tabou nightclub in Kan Kan, only a couple hundred miles upriver from the Malian capitol of Bamako, where Kante hit the big time in the mid to late 70's with Salif Keita and Les Ambassadeurs Internationale before moving on to Abidjan and then Paris. From there, the crew drove to Kante's home village of Farabanah, where eight other tracks were laid in a very rustic setting.

This is a beautiful recording, well-engineered, warm and intimate and yet very clean. There is a sense of ease and contentment in the recordings and yet an incredible depth and subtle tension. New generation Guinean guitarist Djessou Mory Kante lends his artistry. The only electric instrument in the mix is the bass of Sekou Diabate. A trio of female singers provides the standard backup verses on the non-instrumental songs behind Kante's dry, earthy lead vocals.

"Amy Kaba"
Kante's themes are traditional - moral admonitions and love - but the most striking and accessible are the instrumentals, such as the opener, "Relaxin' at Moribaya." The outstanding tune is "Farabanah Blues," which may be one of the finest compositions of the year. Kante's Mandingue roots are obvious, as are the Cuban influences that flavored his earlier work. The proximity of blues to the traditional music of West Africa becomes obvious in listening to this acoustic instrumental. "Tikalama (Cool Down)" is a nice number animated by Diabate's unobtrusive bass, with lovely guitar interplay behind Kante's warnings about the incivility of drunkenness. Also noteworthy are two solo songs by the bolon player, Djely Sara Kouyate, an old friend of Kante's who was recorded in Tabou, the Kan Kan nightclub. A griot (Mandingue praise-singer), Kouyate's work on the traditional rattling lute is as roots as it gets, and is the kind of thing that normally only shows up on ethnographic or local cassette recordings. And yet, it fits in effortlessly to the album as a whole. - Craig Tower

The sound file "Amy Kaba" is copyright 1998 Popular African Music and used by express permission

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