Tchamantché (Nonesuch Records, 2009)
Singer, songwriter and musician Rokia Traoré has followed up her critically-acclaimed CD Bowmboï with the evocatively rich Tchamantché out on Nonesuch Records. Composing all but one of the songs on Tchamantché, Ms. Traoré lures the listener with a collection of tracks infused with love, politics and self awareness. Creating a deliriously spellbinding fusion of contemporary songwriting and West African instrumentation, Tchamantché finds a sound that comes across as fresh, vibrant and wholly original.
Against a simple, yet expertly worked, landscape of guitar, beat box, bass, harp, n’goni and percussion, Ms. Traoré’s mesmerizing vocals astound as they soar delicately, plunge to throaty depths and offer flirty trills throughout Tchamantché. This captivating delivery charms, cajoles, scolds and seduces, making Ms. Traoré’s performance utterly irresistible.
Tchamantché is a varying landscape of tracks with fierce tracks like “Dounia” and “Tounka,” the delicately colored “Dianfa,” the n’goni-laced “Kounandi” and the rolling rhythms and seductive vocals of “Aimer.” Tracks like the deliciously worked “Zen” and the fascinatingly rich “”Koronoko” are seemingly simple, but offer up a sophistication in their construction that bends expectation and quickens the blood. Ms. Traoré includes a stunning version of the Billie Holiday classic “The Man I Love” that would turn the most reluctant goofy with love, making the twists and turns of mood in Tchamantché interesting and downright entertaining.
Rounding out the sound of Tchamantché are n’goni player Mamah Diabaté, hip-hop artist Sly Johnson on human beat box and backing vocals, guitarists Sibiri Koné and Seb Martel, bassist and harpist Christophe “Sisco” Minck, percussionist Steve Shehan, drummer Vincent Taeger, backing vocalist Dianke Termessant, as well as guitar by Ms. Traoré.
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