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Album Review

Few voices can truly command attention, but Kandia Kouyate is one of them. A Malian national treasure and quite possibly that country's greatest female singer, she's what her countrymen call a ngara, a person with almost supernatural powers. And from her singing, it's quite feasible that she possesses them; she not only exudes charisma, even on CD, but there's also a sense that she's barely using the extent of her gifts. This collection of her songs based in the Bambara tradition is acoustic, a perfect setting for her. In addition to standard instruments like djembe, the marimba-like balofon, guitar, and ngoni, flute features occasionally, as do Indian violin and saxophone (which sounds out of place, really). But this is a disc that plays one of its strongest cards at the opening of the first track, as guest guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, from the Super Rail Band, unleashes a jaw-dropping cascade of notes as the introduction to "San Barano" — a minute's worth of playing that's worth the price of the album by itself. Richly and warmly produced by veteran Ibrahim Sylla, the ultimate aim is to showcase Kouyate, and that's what happens, from the raw, churning groove of "Tchegniba" to the rhythmically dense "Kadabila," where she seems to simply float over the rhythm. Apart from offering 11 tracks of superb music, this record proves that Kouyate is the equal of the best divas in the world — and deserves the respect that goes along with it.


Born: 1958 in Kita, Mali

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Although she's only released four solo albums in more than two decades, Kandia Kouyate has been hailed as one of Mali's best female vocalists. According to the New York Times, "(Kouyate) has the charisma and vocal power of the most commanding American soul singers, even though the traditional West African music she performs is only tangentially related to modern soul." Kouyate was born to sing. Her father was a balafon player, while her mother was a vocalist from Birgo who's musical roots reflected...
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Top Albums and Songs by Kandia Kouyate

Biriko, Kandia Kouyate
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  • 9,99 €
  • Genres: World, Music
  • Released: 09 July 2002

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