Fighting the Good Fight
I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in a country war-torn and fractured by Islamic extremists. Then again, I do live in Turkey. Still, both these bands are in harsh conditions (despite Kouyate recording safely abroad) and continue to spread what the world needs. You know what it is.
BASSEKOU KOUYATE & NGONI BA – Ba Power (Glitterbeat): What perked my ears on 2013’s Jama Ko—notorious for having been cut in war-torn Mali amid a coup d’état and sprawling blackouts—were the few tracks with an unrelenting, breakneck pace. Kouyate expands upon that strategy here with his band, Ngoni Ba, augmenting his traditional ngoni with pedal effects and a new lineup. The galloping opener “Siran Fen,” or the following track, “Musow Fanga,” with its sleek, surreal horn solo that appears late in the song (and which roughly translate, I think, as “Fear Everything” and “Woman Power,” respectively), are exercises in unstoppable rhythms. Even when they slow things down, like on the penultimate “Te Duniya Laban,” Kouyate’s ngoni leads a cool blues bounce capped with Amy Sacko’s powerful and charismatic nasal delivery. Gravy. A MINUS
TAL NATIONAL – Zoy Zoy (Fatcat): Tal National are professional musicians who do it like it’s their, well, job: five- or six-hour sets every day of the week, on street corners and parking lots or on the backs of buses. If there’s a place they can play, they play, so it’s no wonder that the hardest working band in Nigeria is also one of its most popular, only recently exporting them to the international community in the form of 2013’s Kaani. That formula is kicked into fifth gear, increasing their blast factor exponentially. They pick up on a loud, frictional riff and throttle it for a good five minutes before stopping abruptly. Then they take that process and lather, rinse, repeat. Not for the faint of heart. B PLUS (**)