Sides of the Divide
Always a bit more difficult to write about world music, especially without liner notes. Either way, what makes both of these good records isn’t merely the stories or backgrounds behind the players or the making of the music but the music itself. On a semi-related note, maybe it’s just what I’ve encountered, but hip-hop this albums this year haven’t been much to write home about. I’ve got one of the Public Enemy releases pegged as an A Minus, and the next best one I’ve heard is Serengeti’s Saal, which I marked as a high B Plus earlier in the year. I’m still processing Ghostface Killah’s 12 Reasons to Die, which I like just fine, but unless A$AP Rocky’s on your good side or you think Lil Wayne hasn’t become one of the lazier rappers out there, the first quarter of 2013 has been slow for the genre.
BOMBINO – Nomad (Nonesuch): Traveling Tuareg guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar’s second (or third) album finds Dan Auerbach proving his more recent worth as producer than composer by melding the Niger-born’s learned desert blues with that of the Southern Delta, a strategy that works cut for cut, again and again and again; African rhythms and vocals with the twang and snarl of Deep South blues guitar, decades of music speaking to each other across the pond. And despite Bombino’s inclination to be political, he shoots for the brotherly with song titles translating as “My Friends,” “Patience,” and “He Greets You Fondly.” A MINUS
BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA – Jama Ko (Out Here): Recording started in 2012 and proceeded despite a military coup comprised of Islamists and Tuareg rebels just-returned from Libya that subverted the power of then-president Amadou Toumani Touri—a strong supporter of Kouyate’s music. So no wonder what started as an innocent get-together-and-play session turned into a prolonged call for peace amid the power-seeking religious fanatics who would ban the very music Kouyate’s keen to churn out. A master of the ngoni—a small, wooden, stringed instrument capable of producing incredibly fast melodies—and backed by his two sons and Zoumana Tereta belting bouts of “Ne me fatigue pas,” (“Don’t wear me out”) this West African jam band’s blend of homegrown Malian tradition and Middle East-borrowed rhythms portrays two sides of a conflict in harmony. That’s pronounced “Jah-mah Kooh.” A MINUS