13 Songs, 52 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After bringing the sound of mbalax — a blend of traditional Senegalese music, pop, and other elements — to the West in the 1980s, Youssou N’Dour became an international star. On 2007’s Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take) he draws from the music of northern Senegal. The fine vocalist is backed by tama (“talking drum”), xalam (possibly an ancestor of the banjo), various percussion instruments, as well as guitar, bass, and keyboards. “4-4-44” opens the album with delightful vocals and a supercharged horn section. Islamic elements, which play a role throughout Rokku, are in the foreground on “Baay Faal,” but the track also has a distinct West African lilt. “Xel,” with its hard-hitting drum accents and vocal harmonies, possesses a catchiness that easily travels across cultures, while “Dabbaax” features guitar playing that would be at home on an American rock record from the 1970s. Rokku is never really low-key or overwhelmingly intense; instead, it possesses a steady, percolating sound that draws you into its energetic flow.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After bringing the sound of mbalax — a blend of traditional Senegalese music, pop, and other elements — to the West in the 1980s, Youssou N’Dour became an international star. On 2007’s Rokku Mi Rokka (Give and Take) he draws from the music of northern Senegal. The fine vocalist is backed by tama (“talking drum”), xalam (possibly an ancestor of the banjo), various percussion instruments, as well as guitar, bass, and keyboards. “4-4-44” opens the album with delightful vocals and a supercharged horn section. Islamic elements, which play a role throughout Rokku, are in the foreground on “Baay Faal,” but the track also has a distinct West African lilt. “Xel,” with its hard-hitting drum accents and vocal harmonies, possesses a catchiness that easily travels across cultures, while “Dabbaax” features guitar playing that would be at home on an American rock record from the 1970s. Rokku is never really low-key or overwhelmingly intense; instead, it possesses a steady, percolating sound that draws you into its energetic flow.

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