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Anansy Cissé

Riverboat Records/World Music Network
Review by Mike Adcock

This new album from Malian singer and guitarist Anansy Cissé was produced over a period of four years against a background of political turmoil in the north of Mali where Cissé is from. The sleeve notes tell us that that some of the songs, all sung in his own Songhai language, reflect this particular social situation while others express more personal feelings. The four years have allowed time for the production to be well honed and with its thoughtful layering of interlocking guitar overdubs it certainly feels like a studio album, but it's none the worse for that and never sounds overworked.

Listen "Tiawo"

Throughout the album there is an extremely effective play-off between the acoustic and electric sounds coming from guitar, ngoni and, on two tracks, the soku, a Malian fiddle. Setting the whole thing off is "Tiawo" which begins with solo ngoni before being joined by acoustic guitar, bass and light percussion to establish a gentle lilting rhythm with no hint of the overt amplification to come. The vocals come in and then the somewhat unexpected sound of a sustained electric guitar, low in the mix but adding a new colour. And then there's another surprise towards the end of the track as a throaty electric guitar kicks in for a bluesy solo before the final vocal chorus.

Listen "Mina"

Other tracks have a more consistently electric feel and there are enough classy blues riffs interweaving here to keep any blues rocker in business for a long time. The instrumental "Mina" might be hard to describe without the word 'boogie' coming into play and wondering whether this is a number that Canned Heat just never got round to recording.

Listen "Balkissa"

During the period that Anoura was coming together the fine soku player Zoumana Tereta died, very shortly after he contributed some beautifully lyrical playing to the tracks "Talka" and "Balkissa". It was perhaps hoped that he would have had a greater presence on the album, with the similarity of tone which Cissé draws from his electric guitar on some other tracks suggesting that this might have been in his mind. In addition we have Abdoulaye Koné and Bakari Diarra playing ngoni, Abrahmane Touré on bass guitar, Mahalmadane Traoré, bass guitar, calabash and percussion, with Bally du Desert and Ouma Diarra providing backing vocals.

There is no doubt that this is a Malian album. It feels as if those blues and rock guitar styles developed over the last few decades outside Africa are here being reclaimed, recontextualized. And one thing that is very different is the rhythm, which in the main has a gentle, rolling feel to it. The sound of the guitar might be cranked up, put through a pedal or two, there might be a fair amount of heavy riffing going on and sometimes some moody bass, but there's no rock drumming here. In keeping with much Malian music the percussion is minimal and understated, allowing the melodic rhythmic patterns to work across each other uncluttered and for all its tonal variety there is a fine sense of space pervading this album.

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