Thursday, August 14, 2008

Album Review: Famoro Dioubate's Kakande-Dununya

Dununya, the new album by griot balafon master Famoro Dioubate and Kakande, his 9-piece ensemble, is a testament to West African music's ability to stand the test of time and evolve. Kakande seamlessly combines traditional African and contemporary Western instruments and influences to foster a fresh, original sound.

Kakande is guided by the eight-hundred year old tradition from which Famoro Dioubate descends. He is a griot or jeli--a family line of musicians, historians, and dispute settlers--and his grandfather, El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyate, is one of the most revered balafon players in West African history. Dioubate was mentored by his grandfather from an early age and performed with the Guinean National Ensemble by his grandather's side. The depth and profound nature of Kakande's sound pays homage to the traditions Dioubate brings to the ensemble.

Kakande employs a diverse instrumentation with the cello and electric guitar featured prominently along with the balafon, djembe, and flute. Dununya exhibits exquisite range, going from slow, deep, relaxing grooves to more upbeat danceable rhythms from track to track. Dioubate's arrangements push the music of his ancestors into the next generation incorporating western instruments and influences into the ensemble while simultaneously maintaining an authentic African sound.

One track from the album that perfectly exemplifies Kakande's evolved sound is Souaresi. The cello, flute and saxophone blend perfectly with the balafon and voices to foster beautifully deep, melodic lines and pitches. The cello especially adds an extra layer of texture that brings an elegant western class to accompany the majestic African sound. It contrasts beautifully with the polyrhythmic arrangement and adds heavier bass to the lower register to round out the total sound. Missia Saran Dioubate's vocal lines are especially beautiful as her voice soars over the flowing backdrop the ensemble provides.

Kakande's Dununya is eleven tracks of beautiful music that will make you dance, relax, invigorate your soul, and educate you about the traditions of West Africa. Famoro Dioubate is part of a recent wave of African musicians in New York City who in collaborating with different artists, broadening their musical horizons, and celebrating African music's ability to evolve and grow to take new shapes and forms, are fostering a new African sound, one that celebrates Africa's musical history while embracing its future.


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