Seckou Keita Quintet - The Silimbo Passage

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Seckou Keita Quintet
The Silimbo Passage
World Artventures (

Seckou Keita certainly isn't the first to take the West African kora (21-stringed harp) away from tradition. Players from Foday Musa Suso to Toumani Diabate have done so without betraying their griot roots. It's a question of where the instrument is taken and how much respect for its unique tones is retained while some true musical exploring is embarked upon. Keita comes from griot lineage in Senegal's Casamance region and in keeping with the familial way of the griot includes a couple of his relations- percussionist Surahata Susso and singer Binta Suso -as part of his quintet. He's also got an Italian bassist (Davide Mantovani) and an Egyptian violinist (Samy Bishai) on board, paving the way for a mix of sounds and styles that mark The Silimbo Passage as a worthy successor to Keita's similarly fine Afro-Mandinka Soul released a few years ago. Given that the kora is one of the most penetrating and pleasing-sounding instruments known to mankind and can induce bliss even in an unaccompanied state, it's clear that Keita's crew know a thing or two about how to work in with and around it. And they're on their toes for every step of Keita's varied arrangements, which ring with not only Senegalese accents, but also measures of jazz, flamenco, funk, Latin, Saharan and even classical chamber music. Though it's Keita's name on the cover, he doesn't try to run the show or hog the solo space. This quintet is very much an ensemble, nailing traditional ballads, praise songs and sparse, sprightly new compositions with precise ease and subtlety. - Tom Orr

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