Adama Yalomba Kassa Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Malian star-in-waiting Yalomba releases his first album outside Africa.

Colin Irwin 2010

Adama Yalomba was hailed as the next great Malian superstar after his impressive contribution to the 2003 Festival in the Desert album and this – his third solo album – is fully geared to making those predictions come true and break him internationally.

It has been a slow genesis for the gifted multi-instrumentalist who has collaborated with both Ali Farka Touré and Afel Bocoum and accompanied Oumou Sangaré and Tinariwen. Kassa was originally recorded in 2007, finally becoming his first official release outside Africa three years later.

Consequently you get the feeling he may have already moved on from the mix’n’match of styles which slightly thwart his attempts to apply his own individuality to an album that draws its influences admirably widely but never fully rids itself of the suspicion of attempting to be all things to all people. An impressive array of guests queue up to put their weight and reputations behind Yalomba, including French guitarist Nicolas Repac, Malian keyboard player Cheick Tidiane Seck, Englishman Piers Faccini (filling the speakers with gorgeous slide guitar and harmonica on the desert blues romp Djamakoyo) and the mighty American guitarist Keziah Jones, who participates in a stimulating bout of duelling guitars on the inventive Adama vs Keziah.

Certainly Yalomba has a beautiful voice that strongly recalls – sometimes a bit too self-consciously – both Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour and his own guitar, ngoni and djembe playing has a pleasingly nimble, lyrical feel. There are some truly inspired touches, too: a staccato Hammond organ that suddenly lifts the title-track, subtle percussion asides, fulsome backing vocals on Nalingui, a seductively lovely arrangement of Kadidja and an impeccable recording quality throughout that gives Yalomba’s voice such clarity you almost expect to see him crawling out of the speakers in front of you.

It’s an enlightened collection of material sung in French, Bambara, English, Boso and Lingala, yet it skips with such alacrity between Afro-pop, jazz, blues, dance, rock and dub, it just seems to be trying a tad too hard. You wish that the real Adama Yalomba would please stand up, please stand up…

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