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Ismaël Lô

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Album Review

Ismaël Lô has long been thought of as Africa's Bob Dylan, since he performs with guitar and harmonica. But it's a comparison that doesn't work for Senegal, which is a lushly arranged look at his own country. The subjects of his songs — racism, poverty, famine, and a ferryboat disaster that's commemorated on "Le Jola" — might be hard-hitting, but they're couched in lulling Afro-pop that seems to take any sting out of the words. Even when the album goes up-tempo it never loses control. What's missing, really, is a sense of passion and fire in the music. It's eminently listenable, and Lô's a gorgeous singer and tunesmith. But a starker backdrop might serve him better, as many of the tunes seem to blend into one, homogenous whole.


Born: 30 August 1956 in Dongo Buti, Niger

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Senegalese guitarist, harmonica player, and singer Ismael Lo plays strong, complex, percussion-laden mbalax songs that discuss important topics in Senegal, ranging from racism and respect to immigration. His smooth multi-textured voice and low-key folky style are a good complement to his 12-piece band. Beginning in 1979, when he joined Super Diamono de Dakar, Lo quickly established himself as a key figure in Senegalese music. He began recording as a solo artist by the mid-'80s, earning...
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Sénégal, Ismaël Lô
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