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Lobi Traore Lobi Traore Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

All songs are ultimately feral, almost chaotic, and weirdly funky too.

Chris Moss 2005

Lobi Traore has said that there's no word for "blues" in his native Bambara tongue. But put on the opening track on this debut album, "Jugu", and you'll find your mind skipping from Memphis to Mali with every twist and turn in the riff. Traore's fiery guitar style is somewhere between John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Page, and against a backdrop of frantic percussion, the whole works like a trance-inducing chant.

The manic, mystical edge has deep roots. Born in 1961 on the left bank of the River Niger, Traore was raised on a diet of divine knowledge, initiation rites and fasting in the forest he passed the tests and was allowed into a Gnosticcaste known as the Komo. From his late teens he played with traditional Bambara folk bands and before long found himself in the Malian capital, Bamako. His debut in 1991 and the Ali Farka Toure-produced follow-up in 1994 won him a fan base at home and in France. When Damon Albarn wound up in Bamako in 2000, he recruited Traore to play on his Mali Music album - the inaugural release on the Honest Jons label.

Impressed by Lobi's gritty voice and gutsy guitarwork, Albarn invited him to record a solo album for his new label. What the sessions lacked in sophistication, they made up for in sheer, shimmering energy. There are no overdubs, no second takes on this album, and no prisoners taken in the performance. Listen to "Kassi Ma Sumaya" or "Son Tani Gnini" and the vocals are raw and frontal, and the closing track, "Dana Mogo", seems to almost fall apart before finding its rhythm and reason for being. Some songs might swing for just a moment towards a rock-style repetitiveness, but the bid for freeform music is too strong and all songs are ultimatelyferal, almost chaotic, and weirdly funky too.

In his book In Griot Time, Banning Eyre has written, 'Sometimes Traore played the proudBambara hunter in patterned brown and black mud-cloth robes. Other times he dressed in biker's leather or alumberjack's plaid shirt and blue jeans.' Supposedly "Western" musical influences and instrumentsoften water down Africansounds and the Africanspirit but Traore is afusioneer in total control, producing a blistering proto-blues which is a reclaiming - not a ceding - of territory.

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