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Album Review

Yet another musical Diabate, yet another spectacular female singer from Mali as Nainy Diabate proves right off the bat with a fierce opening salvo on "Magnoumako." Her first live gig was in late 1979 with the Rail Band de Bamako, and the music on Nafa mixes Western and traditional elements, with the n'goni and balafon prominently featured over the rock band base. The sprightly "Farafina Moussou" has an almost South African mbqanga feel with skittering guitar and punchy bass rhythm to the fore, Diabate singing more conversationally and her squad of female backing singers (who are excellent throughout) almost too "hot" with their support. "Treinanko" is more traditional, with Diabate's vocals again a bit edgier, and the low-key "Mamaya" works the traditional tip but with a more complex arrangement. "Massassai" is supposedly "Mande zouk" but while Diabate wails again over balafon ripples and bass riff, the snare-shot backbeat doesn't really have the jump-up factor of zouk (funny that the liner notes don't list "Dincole" among those tracks, because it's closer to a zouk feel). The repetition does get to trance groove land at the halfway point before the backing vocalists come in for a nice call-and-response finale. The festive "Mousso Dje" has a more pronounced Caribbean flavor, and "Fasso Kadi" comes more from the Latin side — the bass keeps feinting at the "Twist and Shout" habanera line — while jumping from slow grooving with chiming balafon to straight-up sprightly. The title track's haunting trance feel finds Diabate echoing the n'goni (or is it balfon?) line just like a blueswoman, but the groove is unexpected — the bassline is hyper but broken up so it doesn't spoil the lilting sway that makes the spare melody connect instantly. The ballad-like "Kono" utilizes synthesizers with a tough chord progression, and the whole sound of "Nainy Kana Kassy" reflects the positive, optimistic feel of the music here — fittingly since that's exactly what "nafa" translates as. The traditional and Western pop elements are adroitly balanced on Nafa, and the different Caribbean flavors help add to the healthy variety in the music. Don't know if Nainy Diabate should rate over Oumou Sangaré as a starting point for newcomers, but anyone who knows and likes the melismatic, Islamic-influenced sound of these amazingly powerful women singers from Mali should be delighted.

Top Albums and Songs by Nainy Diabate

Nafa, Nainy Diabate
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  • £7.99
  • Genres: World, Music
  • Released: 21 May 1996

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