Pape and Cheikh Mariama Review

Album. Released 21 October 2002.  

BBC Review

New vocal duo from Senegal. Modern, sophisticated African roots pop.

John Armstrong 2003

With stars like Youssou N'Dour, Baaba Maal, Salif Keita and Orchestre Baobab, West Africa is certainly not short of talent. But every so often, a new act appears from that musically abundant region to prick up the ears. Pape Amadou Fall and Cheikhou Coulibaly are being promoted as a sort of folk protest group, and Real World's website makes much reference to the Dylans and Baezes of this world. But do yourself a favour by listening to the music first, without the benefit of the sleevenote's lyric translation.

The title track is one of those luscious, melancholy airs that one associates with Afro-Parisian star Lokua Kanza. Afro-Celt James McNally'saccordion is a natural accompaniment to the swirling melody line. The mood is revisited in the upbeat 'Kekilo' and the more reflective 'Ma Ansou'.

'Yaay' ups the tempo and features a dark organ riff and wah wah guitar figure against traditional percussion. Then there's a wonderful moment where the minor key slips into a major, then back to the minor key: this track must be the natural choice for a few dance floor remixes.

'Kokoliko' and 'Jello': are just acoustic guitar and voice. Here is where the western protest/folk comparisons do make sense. This reviewer detected shades of early Bert Jansch/John Renbourn/Davy Graham in atmosphere and style if not content.

'Kamalemba' and 'Yatal Gueew' take us deep into Youssou N'Dour territory, the former featuring that unmistakable skipping 6/8 beat of traditional Wolof percussion and handclapping, the latter bringing to mind Youssou's massive 1985 hit 'Immigres'. 'Lonkotina', with its forbidding electric guitar line, has something of Neil Young circa 'Cowgirl In The Sand' about it!

The album tapes, originally recorded in Youssou N'Dour's studio in Dakar and released domestically a couple of years ago as a cassette-only album, have been judiciously 'cleaned up' for this international release. But original Canadian producer Mac Fallows' deliberately understated feel still shines through.

Pape and Cheikh are currently touring Europe with Tracy Chapman. We'll be lucky if we hear a more interesting Senegalese debut release this year.

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