26 August 2005

Jimi M'baye's Soulful Senegal Sound (CD review)

I'll admit my limitations right up front: my advance copy of the second album from the lead guitarist/arranger of Youssou N'Dour's Super Etoile Band includes no song title translations or lyrics or notes, just the CD, the song names, and M'baye's face on the cover. In a sense, it's a pure listening experience - just my ears and the music. And the music speaks well of itself. Talking drums and electric guitars up front, catchy melodies, and M'baye's smooth voice atop rich arrangements. N'Dour fans will eat this up, and the music isn't a cheap knockoff of his sound. I particularly like the tracks "Jankh Ndaw" and "Yaral Ma" and I'll let you know if I find out what they're about. M'baye does sing in English on a few tracks, and the album concludes with a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up," though this is vocally the weakest track on the album, M'baye's otherwise fine voice sounding strained and ill-suited to the arrangement. Aside from that, Yaye Digalma is a rewarding album with great Afropop appeal. And eight years after his debut Dakar Heart, it's about time!

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