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Album Review

The West African lute called the ngoni is a little akin to its descendent, the banjo. In music from the region, it is often employed as part of groups with additional instrumentation. Bassekou Kouyate, who's worked with many Malian greats, takes it out of this context by leading a band with no less than four ngonis and producing some of the loveliest music to come from the area in recent years. Some of it is quite dramatic, like the opener, "Tabali Te," but for the most part there is a gorgeous, lulling gentility to everything. The material is all original, but with a traditional spirit and with much derived from the repertoire of the griots. The big exception is "Lament for Ali Farka," an elegy to Kouyate's late employer, the great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré. Another local guitar player, Lobi Traoré, is featured on "Banani," and singer Zoumana Tereta is a guest on several cuts, showing off a very impressive voice. Put it all together and you have a disc that's nothing short of stunning.

Segu Blue, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
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