Sabou (Mix N’ Metisse, 2013)
Mali continues to produce some of the finest music in West Africa. This time it’s Abou Diarra, a virtuoso musician originally from the Wassulu region. He is a formidable singer and skilled instrumentalist as well. Abou Diarra plays the kamale ngoni, a traditional West African lute-style instrument used by hunters that looks like a small kora.
Like other contemporary Malian artists, Abou Diarra makes a tasty mix of traditional Malian music with blues, jazz, funk, and modern elements. I’m a little surprised that he is not getting more attention in the world music press. His music is fresh and engaging and would appeal to fans of Oumou Sangare, Issa Bagayogo or Salif Keita.
On Sabou, Diarra combines dazzling fast pieces with irresistible slow tempo material. Abou Diarra demonstrates his chops as a kamale ngoni player, with fabulous solos and fascinating interactions with guitars and other instruments. In addition to familiar percussion instruments such as balafon, jembe, bass, and evocative Fula flute, the album also features unconventional elements such as piano and Balkan-style accordion.
Sabou is an outstanding recording of contemporary Malian roots music and certainly one of the great surprises of the year in West African music.
Buy the Sabou MP3s in North America
Buy the Sabou CD or MP3s in Europe