Pape and Cheikh / Mariama
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Pape and Cheikh
Real World (

cd cover The Senegalese duo of Pape Amadou Fall and Cheikh Coulibaly are on a meteoric trajectory. The two young friends were in the music business for years until their solo effort in Senegal, Yakaar, was released in 2001, coinciding with the beginning of the campaign for the election of a new president. Perennial challenger Abdoulaye Wade chose their tune 'Yatal Gueew' ('Widening the Circle') as his theme, making it a smash throughout the country, and perhaps contributing to his victory at the polls. This brought Pape and Cheikh to the attention of Real World, resulting in the album Mariama and a recent European tour as the opener for brand name folkie Tracey Chapman.


Anyone reasonably familiar with Senegal's top names knows that the country has a wealth of musical traditions to draw on, and that her artists fluidly mix styles from across ethnicities and genres. Youssou N'Dour and Baba Maal take inspiration from Wolof and Fulani sources, respectively - when they're not drawing on everything from hiphop to disco. Pape and Cheikh represent many Mande traditions on Mariama, in the restrained troubadour style that seems to be emerging in West Africa. The album's lead and title track is the story of a Mande king and the treacherous pact he made to ensure a male heir. The song has deep roots, but the production is unmistakably 21st century, using understated instrumentation - keyboards, accordion, and harmonica back up acoustic guitar and the duo's mellow vocals, tinged with longing.

The rest of the album is equally subtle, if less elaborately orchestrated. There is an homage to mothers ("Yaay,") a plea for peace in the Casamance ("Kamalemba"), and of course the hit "Yatal Gueew," whose popularity in Senegal was probably due to its lyrical content rather than any musical innovation. Pape and Cheikh's sound is not fundamentally new, but it is solid. - Craig Tower

"Mariama" by Papa Amadou Fall and Cheikhou Coulibaly
(p) 2002 Jololi Productions / Real World Records and Narada Productions, Inc.

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