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Joko - From Village to Town

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Album Review

In essence, this is a reworking of Joko From Village to Town, which only appeared in Europe. However, slimmed down a bit by removing most of the duets (only "This Dream," featuring mentor Peter Gabriel, survives the cut) and all the remixes, it's definitely leaner and meaner. N'Dour has often been rightly accused of released watered-down albums for a non-African audience, but the addition of two Senegalese cuts, "Miss" and "Madema (The Electricity Is Out Again)," both fine examples of his hard Dakar m'balax style, show that Western audiences can readily accept the real thing. N'Dour himself might have lost a vocal step or two since the glory days of the 1980s, but he can still come in high and sweet with that remarkable voice, like a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, and outsing most people on the planet. The band, too, is in superb form, with longtime bassist/arranger Habib Faye and outstanding bastion. The record's at its best when it's just N'Dour and the band, flying full throttle, with the tama drum chattering and skittering across the complex dance rhythm. When it slows up, as on "This Dream," and programming becomes a part of the equation, something's definitely lost, be it excitement or spontaneity. The exception is in the epic closer, "Red Dirt," an eloquent plea for Africa, with N'Dour at his impassioned best. All too often, re-jigging an album is a sign of failure; in this case, it's a sign of success.


Born: 1959 in Dakar, Senegal

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Some of the most exciting sounds to come out of Africa in the late '80s and 1990s were produced by Senegal-born vocalist Youssou N'Dour. Although rooted in the traditional music of his homeland, N'Dour consistently sought new means of expression. In addition to recording as a soloist, N'Dour collaborated with a lengthy list of influential artists including Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Neneh Cherry, and Branford Marsalis. A native of the impoverished Media section of Dakar, N'Dour inherited his musical...
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Joko - From Village to Town, Youssou N'Dour
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