Driving rhythms, thrilling singing and great guitar. A triumphant return to his...
John Armstrong 2002-11-20
Moffou marks a return to form for Mali's most famous male solo artist. Salif Keita's career appeared to be flagging slightly upon the release of 1999's lacklustre electro-based Papa. Here, he has wisely opted for an almost totally acoustic production. The combination of Mali's finest traditional instrumentalists with the cream of Paris' neo-classical and nu-jazz acoustic players is an uncommonly happy one.
Guitarists Djelly Moussa Kouyate and Kante Manfile are both long-term Keita associates from their days together in early Malian supergroupsThe Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs. They hit the 'jeli' (griot) groove right from the start.
The opener, 'Yamore', sets the seal: the song's romantic wistfulness is underlined by guest spots from Cap Verde's Cesaria Evora and Parisian accordionist Benoit Urbain.
Keita's own considerable skill as a guitarist in his three solo performances - especially 'Iniagige' - is in evidence throughout. The effortlessly rocking tempo of 'Madan' juxtaposes Malian fiddles and lutes against Camerounian Guy N'Sangue's funky electric bass and a driving West African percussion section.
The album has a consistent recording sound throughout. But it's a homogeneity that matures with repeated listenings into a shifting tapestry of rhythm and texture. For instance, the last two tracks, 'Koukou' and 'Here', share an almost Caribbean lilt. Closer inspection lays bare a strong Brazilian influence in the former, and an old-fashioned calypso edge to the latter, accentuated by Arnaud Devos' novel steel drum work.
The album has already achieved some of Keita's strongest sales to date and will undoubtedly figure highly in many 'best of 2002' charts. Highly recommended.