cd cover Djanbutu Thiossane
Ass, Mass & Pap

"Sey Lene"
The Senegalese trio of Ass, Mass & Pap N'Diaye form the core of Djanbutu Thiossane, and the brothers' emphasis on percussion is evident on this debut recording. There are tracks of percussion and vocals only, suggestive of Cuban rumba, and even when the characteristic Wolof accompaniment of kora, balafon, and even the odd violin and restrained electronic keyboard appear, they clearly take their cues from the rolling, pattering, articulate drums. Bekai Jobarteh's kora work is especially interesting and evocative, often lilting lightly around a hypnotic two-chord minor key figure (say, E flat minor and B major), reminiscent of the Indonesian music of Kecapi Suling. Mass' lead vocal is piercingly fine, nasal yet subtle and sinuous, well backed by a mixed chorus.

In "Serigne Saliou Mbacke," a percussion intro is slowly joined by a kora that seems to approach from a distance, a processional resolving into a lively, bouncy song whose intersecting rhythms can blindside the listener. Djanbutu Thiossane percussion and the uncertain eating habits of the traveling musician dominate "¿Qué Comemos?", a dense, Afro-Cuban style maelstrom of beats supporting a call-response rap about what's for lunch: if this is Andalusia, lunch must be gazpacho.

At the center of the recording, "Sey Lene" features Wafir Shekheldin's accordion in amiable competition with kora and lead vocal to lay a joyous mood over rolling, insistent percussion; a lively dance number. In "Nanganama," Shekheldin's virtuosity is again on display, his violin lending an Arabic mood, replete with fretless swoops, the concluding two minutes a percussion instrumental in a long, slow recessional fade, echoing the kora approach in "Serigne Saliou Mbacke." "Gan" is a loping, one-chord blues featuring a subtle yet fetching lute performance by the resourceful Shekheldin, and the recording winds up with the majestic devotional vocal and final percussion frenzy of "Laila Ilala." Ass, Mass & Pap is a well-rounded celebration of contemporary griot artistry. - Jim Foley

Audio © 1999 Nube Negra/Intuition, used by permission

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