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Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba - Miri (Outhere Records)

Star rating: 
4

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba's fifth album MIRI is more of a reflective set than the muscular BA POWER, the band's previous album release four years ago. Kanougnon, the opening song, could in fact quite easily be taken as a lullaby, with Amy Sacko's soothing vocal and Bassekou Kouyate's fluid playing, together with a guest appearance by noted Moroccan Oud/Guimbri player Majid Bekkas. There's a gentleness to this enchanting music from the start, echoed in the title instrumental Miri, which literally translates to 'dream' or 'contemplation'. 

Known to straddle two very distinct styles of playing, that of the traditional Ngoni (lute) music of West Africa and also that of a more explorative nature, we see Kouyate experimenting with a bottleneck for the first time, bringing an oriental feel to Wele Ni, which comes across more 'Fenghuang/Hunan' than 'Paris/Texas', yet this exemplifies Kouyate's continual experimental musical journey. If Wele Ni looks towards the east, then Wele Cuba certainly casts an eye to the west, by incorporating Caribbean rhythms, which dovetail perfectly with the band's very distinct, almost anthemic African chorus. There's plenty of guests here including Abdoulaye Diabate, Kankou Kouyate and Habib Koite, together with Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops) who adds some highly percussive 'bones' to the song Fanga

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky